Fire: This past December and January, wildfires swept through large areas of southern California. Local state fire agency CAL FIRE worked together with the California Air National Guard, utilizing drones to collect large amounts of data that it would have been nearly impossible for ground teams to acquire in a timely manner. This data allowed firefighters to pinpoint areas of quickly progressing fire, to improve firefighting efficiency. DJI-conducted research in 2016 showed that rescue teams utilizing drones were able to help locate people in need of help much more quickly, and as a result were much faster at getting them needed support.
Hurricanes: 2017 is considered by many to be a landmark year for drones and hurricane relief efforts. At Interdrone 2018, keynote speaker, FAA administrator Michael Huerta spoke on the subject, saying, “Essentially, every drone that flew meant that a traditional aircraft was not putting an additional strain on an already fragile system. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the hurricane response will be looked back upon as a landmark in the evolution of drone usage in this country.” In last year’s hurricane season, one response team led by Dr. Robin Murphy of Texas A&M used drones to assess flood damage, and predict areas of future flood risk. Other organizations are working to mobilize Part 107 pilots and Part 333 exempt businesses to work together on emergency response. The ability of drones to quickly find areas of greatest need is an invaluable resource to first responders.
Earthquakes: Fall of 2017 saw a 7.1 magnitude earthquake hit Mexico City, leaving much of the city in ruins. DroneSky, a drone mapping company based in Mexico City, jumped to the aid of the city by creating a map of the hard-hit Xochimilco district, and individual maps of specific buildings that had sustained major damage. This task would have been nearly impossible without the aid of drone technology. The maps were then made available to city planners and architects to be used in reconstruction efforts.
The uses and usefulness of drones is limited only by the imagination, but here are a few features of drones that make them an ideal tool for natural disaster response efforts.