A Look Back: Drones Offer Innovative Solutions in the Wake of Hurricanes

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As Hurricane Dorian careens toward the Southeastern Seaboard, emergency officials are ramping up safety measures and prepping for the aftermath of the now-Category 5 storm.

And drones continue to offer innovative approaches in helping safety agencies mitigate the damage and after-effects of hurricanes.

UAS companies such as DJI, as well as non-profit groups like the Airborne International Response Team, are already preparing to tackle the job.

For the past few years, in fact, drones have enhanced both pre-and-post hurricane response efforts.

  • Before the 2019 hurricane season got underway, Homestead (Fla.) officials collaborated with disaster-response firm Disaster Program & Operations as well as drone services provider Airborne Response to provide critical infrastructure inspection and disaster-response services.
  • In 2018, Airborne Response flew drone missions to gather inspection data, assessing damage to infrastructure — key buildings, highways, bridges, communications towers and power lines in the wake of Hurricane Michael. The photos also helped insurance companies quickly and effectively process claims. SimActive, a developer of photogrammetry software, partnered with drone service provider Midwest Aerial to assess damage to homes and infrastructure after the hurricane struck the Gulf Coast. The UAV firm collected aerial data over Mexico Beach, Fla. – one of the hardest hit towns. Technicians then used Correlator3D to process large-format imagery.  The joint effort resulted in highly precise geospatial data, including a DSM, an orthomosaic and a 3D model of the town.
  • Following Hurricane Florence in 2018 , the FAA granted major insurer State Farm permission to fly drones Beyond Visual Line of Sight in four states, allowing the company to assess damage and provide faster claims processing for victims of the storm.
  • After Hurricane Matthew in 2016, wireless provider Verizon completed a successful inspection deployment of UAVs in areas of the Carolinas beleaguered by heavy flooding. Launching a quadcopter operated by drone-service contractor Measure UAS, Verizon inspected several wireless equipment nodes to determine repair needs across its regional network. The company’s drone recorded and transmitted live video feeds to Verizon engineers as it flew over cell equipment in hard-hit areas such as Elm City, N.C. and the Tar River Reservoir.




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