Doing Good

Expediting Disaster Relief Services with Drone Technology

April 25, 2020

Many of us have seen the viral videos of drones being used to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether delivering medical tests in Ghana, to disinfecting public places and monitoring stay-at-home orders in China, these specialized drones are automating dangerous tasks and reducing the rate of human transmission. But in a post-COVID world, drone technology can be utilized to solve our own disaster relief challenges stateside. Mapping at-risk areas, identifying survivors, and providing a bird’s-eye view of the scene to first responders are just some of the benefits that drone technology can provide.


Inspection Tools

Performing inspections is one of the most practical use cases we see at DroneDeploy. In the wake of a natural disaster, emergency response professionals can use drones to assess the structural integrity of buildings to formulate the best and most well-informed evacuation plan. This also dramatically reduces their exposure to unnecessary danger. After Hurricane Irma in 2017, researchers and local governments in Florida used drones to survey over 300 square miles to assess neighborhood damage unsafe for teams on the ground to reach. Through the creation of 3D models, these teams were able to provide this data to FEMA for accurate disaster relief funds and survivor assistance volunteers.


Furthering this effort, search and rescue teams can use drones to survey affected areas and identify survivors and those most at-risk. Drones outfitted with infrared or night vision cameras can easily spot individuals based on their heat index, providing a critical viewpoint unavailable to those on the ground. In fact, one of the earliest drone use cases was in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when drone technology was used to identify survivors in Mississippi after access to their town was cut off by debris.

DroneDeploy features such as Live Map or Live Stream allow for easy link sharing and collaboration across teams, which is necessary for relief workers. Overall, insights provided by drone technology aid in situational awareness and intensify quick response capabilities. In a situation where time can literally mean the difference between life or death, a highly deployable drone is an undoubted asset.


Incident Reporting

In the days, weeks, or months following an incident, drones can be used to assist in documenting clean-up efforts or response progress in post-fire, post-flood, and mudslide relief management. Especially in a difficult-to-reach area, such as properties affected by a mudslide, a drone’s aerial view can identify the places hit hardest, who was impacted, and evaluate transportation routes. Currently, the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office in Colorado uses drones to understand the scope of a mudslide’s debris without sending workers onto the shifting landscape.


Large Scale Mapping

Whether before or after a catastrophic event, drone mapping services are beneficial for each stage of tactical planning. Cities or counties can use these features to map out their entire boundary, simplifying relief efforts, and law enforcement response to emergencies. Internally, this information can be used to updated GIS systems or teams.

We’re increasingly seeing drone mapping used as a proactive, preventative measure taken by local governing bodies. By having a complete map of their area, law enforcement can effectively plan for emergencies, and, in the event something occurs, be fully prepared for the situation.

Drone technology is simplifying emergency response services by aiding in pre and post-disaster planning. With a precise map of their boundaries, law enforcement can guard against risks and be best prepared to address an incident. During an emergency, live streaming from a drone’s point of view expedites relief efforts and the search and rescue process. Post-disaster, drone software can be used to evaluate team response and track clean-up efforts.

Want a general overview of drones in surveying? Watch our free webinar on-demand.

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