Hurricane relief efforts being powered by UAS



With hurricane season in full effect, unmanned aircraft have been pushed to the forefront as an innovative technology that can be used during relief efforts.

Just a few weeks ago, Hurricane Harvey throttled Texas and Louisiana, leaving billions of dollars’ worth of damage in its wake.

With mass flooding and other factors leaving areas difficult, or in some cases impossible, to navigate, UAS have become invaluable during the recovery efforts in Texas, especially in the Houston area which was hit the hardest.

This has been possible thanks to swift action from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which has been actively cooperating with UAS operators to get these systems into the sky quickly and effectively where they are most needed.

As of Sept. 6, the FAA had issued 127 authorizations to UAS operators performing search and rescue operations, as well as those assessing damage to roads, bridges and other critical infrastructure, in response to Hurricane Harvey.

In some cases, these authorizations were issued within just a few hours, or even minutes.  

“We recognized that we needed to move fast – faster than we have ever moved before,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta during the InterDrone Conference in Las Vegas on Sept. 6.

UAS have also played a major role for the media, as the systems have been used to provide coverage of damaged areas to people around the world.

“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,” Huerta added.

Via the Wall Street Journal, AUVSI President and CEO Brian Wynne said of UAS, “they’re being used in a lot of different ways we’ve been talking about for a long time.”

While the recovery efforts are just beginning in Texas and Louisiana post-Harvey, there could very well be more recovery efforts to be launched in the near future, as Hurricane Irma is forecasted to hit southern Florida within the next few days.

With this in mind, AUVSI’s Atlanta chapter has put out a notice looking for Part 107 Pilots, as there is a UAS provider looking for several Part 107 pilots to “support disaster response efforts in Florida.”

Under a contracted position, the pilots would be responsible for providing utility and infrastructure inspections. There is also the possibility that after this contract, there could be insurance claim inspections as well.

Interested pilots are asked to immediately contact Matthew Beebe, local representative to FLY MOTION Unmanned Systems, at 770-362-4080, or through email at Pilots should be prepared to discuss their equipment, experience, Part 107 certificate, and how long they can deploy.

In addition to this announcement from AUVSI’s Atlanta chapter, AUVSI member HAZON Solutions has also announced that it will provide its UAS fleet management software, the Drone Management System (DMS), for free to “anyone involved in hurricane disaster response or recovery efforts in the U.S.”

“With what's happened in Texas and as Irma looks to pack a punch on the East Coast, we are looking to do more than just send our teams in to the disaster areas to help out,” says HAZON Vice President Ed Hine.

“We’re offering DMS to drone operators involved in the response or recovery for the next three months. Our hope is that DMS will help drone operators better coordinate and execute their flights, ideally the result will be better support for those who need it the most.”

With UAS showcasing their value thus far during the hurricane season, it’s clear that this technology is just beginning to see its potential realized for this particular area, and more entities are gearing up to use the technology to support areas that could be potentially be affected.