Drones & New Disasters

We are watching this  summer’s drastic weather on the southern coast and out west with an eye towards the sky. This is the first year we have heard about incorporating independent drones in disaster areas on a larger and more structured basis to help with search and recovery, image capture for news and inspections for insurance claims.

In past years, the rule of thumb was to not fly in disaster areas because it would inhibit first-responders, especially those fighting fires or attempting air rescues during a flood. Even though this is still the case in a majority of disaster areas, with new technology and coordination between agencies, independent drone operators are being called on more often for assistance. Here are a few news items we noticed lately.

  • An app called DroneUp is coordinating FAA Licensed Drone pilots to help in disaster areas. As a pilot, we can sign up for the service and help with communication during the disaster. All flights are coordinated with FAA agencies.
  • Insurance Companies are finding it much easier to do damage inspections from the air instead of walking and crawling around dangerous sites to assess damage. ABC news had a great article about the use of drones for this purpose.
  • Fire Departments that frequently battle forest fires are beginning to use drones for fire inspection often using thermal cameras and gas sensors to better asses the situations they will be risking their lives in. Article about drones & firefighting

It’s great to see drones finally getting some good news coverage however it is still vitally important that all operators follow FAA guidelines, your local guidelines when it comes to disasters and also common sense. An image of a coast guard helicopter landing in a Houston suburb made it clear that getting images of a disaster area is far less important than rescuing lives. Stay safe out there everyone!


Cumberland River in Tennessee


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