In the wake of a natural disaster, help needs to be deployed quickly and efficiently. Often the first obstacle to overcome is gaining a complete view of the situation. All of the supplies and emergency teams in the world cannot succeed without knowing where to send them. Recently, we have seen this initial reconnaissance task falling to specialized drones and their operators. These unmanned vehicles can launch from any location, and provide high resolution images of potentially dangerous areas. This is a critical component of resource management, and we’ve already seen the system’s effectiveness in the recent hurricanes along the Gulf coast.
While these massive, large scale emergencies benefit greatly from drone usage, small scale operations can be just as easily augmented. There is a perception that small commercial drones do not have the cargo capacity to carry anything of value. Yet, they are fully capable of carrying food, water and even thermal protective aids to people trapped in remote locations. Perishable medicine can be delivered to remote sites at a fraction of the time needed for land transport, and a fraction of the cost of manned aircraft. Some drones have even been modified to carry detachable flotation devices for use in life-guarding, search and rescue at sea.
The unmanned nature of these systems also removes the danger to personnel that is often associated with emergencies. Forest fires can be safely monitored from on high without risking a pilot. Criminals can be followed without risking danger to police. Many departments in the United States have already undergone the necessary drone training and drone certification necessary for these missions – they are only waiting for greater FAA clearance before completing a full roll-out.
For disaster response, commercial drone operators will be in high demand. The specialization possible through safety and rescue drone training creates an entire industry of people that can respond at a moment’s notice. The low cost and ease of use that’s associated with drones frees up manned aircraft for more dire operations that require direct intervention. Helicopters will no longer be required for reconnaissance roles, and can focus on retrieving people in dangerous environments. Emergency response is an ever evolving field, and each advance has the potential to save lives.