Hurricanes are natural events that sometimes become natural disasters; the recent landfall of Hurricane Florence on the US east coast was a vivid example. Drones played a vital role in the disaster planning and disaster response. FAA UAV test sites spend substantial time and resources improving techniques and creating useful innovations for public safety during natural disasters such as severe storms and hurricanes. In the Hurricane Florence emergency response, government and private companies displayed the growing use of drone technology.
After the Storm
Hurricane Florence hit the east coast with ferocious winds. The damage also came from days of heavy rains and flooding over a wide region. The storm reduced electric power, limited access by roads and highways, and left many people in jeopardy of rising water. Drones use battery power, and they can take in wide areas and provide precise details. The insurance industry has a significant interest in the use of drones to assess damage in order to offer immediate before and after imagery.
Emergency Operator Certification
Amateur drone operators must be careful not to interfere with emergency response activities. The FAA warns amateur not to fly during emergency conditions so as not to interfere with first responders. Some commercial drone operators that wish to participate in early response activities can get an emergency operator certification from a sky safety official to authorize operation FAA temporary blackout zones.
FAA UAV test sites continuously experiment with techniques to extend drone flight time. Battery-powered devices have a built-in limitation based on the onboard energy supply. When the need is for a persistent aerial presence, the latest technology assist is the use of tethered drones. These wired machines can stay aloft for indefinite periods by using a wired power source. In the natural disaster setting, operators can use generators.
When a device must withstand the forces of nature such as hurricane-level winds and torrential rains, then it must be a sturdy and durable device. Drone innovations for emergency response include machines that have ratings for extreme winds, cold, and rain conditions. When used in emergency situations, volunteers and other commercial drones can provide timely information that can aid rescues.
Aftermath and Recovery
Drones can perform valuable reconnaissance and damage surveys in the immediate aftermath of a major storm like hurricane Florence. A group of volunteer licensed pilots set up station in the expected path of Hurricane Florence. They organized staging areas to ride out the storm and launch flights immediately after the high winds subsided. The aftermath of the storm is a critical time for first responders and infrastructure repair organizations.
A drone can provide instant imaging in storm-damaged areas so that repair efforts can focus on essential needs and make realistic priorities. These groups are the drone version of the Cajun Navy that helps rescue flood victims; they are commercial drone volunteer operators that take some personal risk to be on-site in storms, floods, and disasters. Volunteer drone operators offer critical assistance to the public.
2. As Hurricane Florence Looms, Drone Pilots Prepare for Recovery