Happy Dronesgiving! Being Thankful for “Healthful Skies”

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image: courtesy Altohelix

In proclaiming Thanksgiving Day in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln said, “the year that is drawing towards its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come.

Unless Honest Abe was a time traveler (as well as a noted Vampire Hunter), he never found out how healthful and fruitful drones have made our skies through projects that have since been dubbed #DronesForGood (Ole Abe would have some strong opinions about hashtags).

Here are three ways drones are making the world a better place. And despite the sensationalist headlines every time some idiot flies a drone in the wrong airspace, the UAV sector has given society many reasons to be thankful we’re living in such amazing times.

Altohelix: Mapping Flooded Areas in Kenya

Canadian drone firm Altohelix is working with the Kenyan Red Cross to map areas following flooding disasters. Drones can also be used to inspect and monitor crop-health data from above.

“Kenya experiences extreme weather cycles – and in some areas, the floods and the rains consistently cause loss of homes, crops, and lives.  As a result, the Kenyan government is working to resettle some communities who get flooded every year: a critical and immediate need for aerial data.”

The Altohelix team uses Mavic 2 Pro quadcopters and Pix4D for processing, allowing them to create a digital surface model of proposed resettlement areas following intense flooding. As a result of the project, the Red Cross constructed 5,715 new shelters, replacing the less sturdy huts destroyed by the flooding.

DroneAid: Post-hurricane relief

Following the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Maria in 2017, Puerto Rican coder Pedro Cruz developed DroneAid. The relief solution identifies SOS messages survivors create on the ground in the hope they will be seen from above.

Cruz explains:

“[DroneAid] is a tool that uses visual recognition to detect and count SOS icons on the ground from drone video streams overhead, and then automatically plots the emergency needs captured via video on a map for first responders. I thought that drones could be the perfect solution for rapidly assessing damages from the air and they could help with capturing images that could then be processed by AI computer vision systems. A drone can survey an area for [SOS] icons placed on the ground by individuals, families, or communities to indicate various needs. As DroneAid detects and counts these images, they are plotted on a map in a web dashboard. This information is then used to prioritize the response of local authorities or organizations that can provide help.”

Non-profits and Grants

Non-profit org Airborne International Response Team recently received a grant from the Motorola Solutions Foundation to equip the group’s DRONERESPONDERS program.

According to the AIRT, the grant will be used:

“To bolster DRONERESPONDERS research initiatives surrounding first responders use of UAS, and to provide educational programing and outreach to public safety and disaster response professionals in underserved communities who want to deploy unmanned systems to help save lives and protect property.”

Speaking of non-profits, national drone services provider Airborne Works last year launched the National Public Safety Drone Donation Program. Airborne donates 5 percent of net profits to help public agencies across the nation obtain UAV technology that can be used for disaster relief, search and rescue or fire-fighting support. The organization’s motto? “Eyes in the sky for every department in need.”



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