With commercial UAVs increasing in popularity throughout the world, first responders and other factions of disaster relief are looking to SAR drones for their capabilities in the midst of devastation. It seems that the more functionality that can be added to these unmanned aircraft, the more good they can do with aiding relief efforts or search and rescue operations alike. To better understand how drones are currently being used in the aftermath of disasters, or the plans that relief groups have for the UAVs in the future, here are some specifics regarding the jobs that disaster SAR drones are being tasked with.
Thermal Imagery Helps To Locate Living Things
Many people do not realize the full extent of what many advanced drones are actually able to do for teams searching for missing people or animals after a natural disaster has occurred. While aerial footage is certainly a plus (and will make this list a little later on) it is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to locating trapped or missing living things. Using thermal imagery is one of the best methods, as this can clearly indicate, in some of the worst destruction zones, if there is still anyone or anything trapped among the rubble and debris. This goes quite a long way to reducing the death toll that significantly severe weather and conditions have, by allowing first responders to get real time information about the condition of the trapped individual, as well as the safest path to get to their exact coordinates. According to a Fox News report, thermal imagery is one of the skills that drones have that are underutilized by an overly cautious FAA.
Many Pilots Are Willing To Offer Services Free of Charge
One interesting thing about drone owners is that they are always looking for a reason to fly their machines. This often translates into entire volunteer groups coming together, along with their UAVs, to donate their time to a current cause. The trouble that these groups are having it seems, is that the FAA is struggling to lockdown airspace over disaster relief efforts for manned aircraft like helicopters and planes. This doesn’t leave a lot of room for drone pilots to navigate, nor is it deemed legal for them to do so according to the FAA’s strict air space restrictions. In the future, you will very likely see these volunteer groups working in accordance with other manned vehicles and Search and Rescue Operations to sweep areas quickly and to assess the worst of the damages.
Aerial Footage Can Aid In Search and Rescue Operations
According to an article released through Business Insider, many UAV pilots are finding a place where they can do their part to help by using real time video feeds to help locate missing people. Conventional search party methods are often very costly and time consuming, which can lead to tragic consequences or a loss of viable evidence to locate someone. But in allowing these pilots to offer their aircraft up to help in a crisis, areas are being surveyed from a unique perspective and law enforcement is able to move investigations along at a much faster pace than they have been accustomed to in the past.
They Have A Much Faster Search Time
Speaking of faster search times, that is another one of the significant advantages to having a drone as a part of a disaster relief operation. Not only are they able to survey damaged areas much more quickly, but they can even act as medical drone machines in a way, directing first responders to someone in desperate need of attention or to deliver medical supplies and other important equipment and materials to devastated areas to offer some relief. In many cases, having drones on the job in these situations can be critical to the livelihood of those still in danger and those looking for some hope in a very trying time, according to an official report from a volunteer network known as SWARM (Search With Aerial RC Multirotor). The group advocates volunteer involvement with drones for a number of critical tasks.
Delivering Lifesaving Equipment Directly To Where It Is Needed
An NBC News story reported recently about the involvement of drones for relief efforts following the destruction left by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Amongst the roles for these machines that have already been discussed or still will be, the story talks about how drones can access places that many humans cannot in a crisis. In flooding conditions, for example, it might not be safe for SAR workers to put themselves at serious risk of losing their own lives in order to save another. With UAVs, equipment like life jackets or rescue ropes can be dropped to a person in distress to save their life, without having to risk other lives in order to do it.
They Can Be Manned All The Time To Constantly Survey
One thing that is often not considered when it comes to rallying up citizens and various organizations for search and rescue operations is the nature of the work involved. People tire, and there is only so much they are physically able to do before they have to rest or more volunteers are needed to give them a break from searching or saving. Drones require one solitary pilot to man the controls and survey, making it possible to operate multiple drones simultaneously in a quadrant and relieve pilots as they need to be. This dramatically cuts down on the manpower needed to successfully search for missing people and ensures that as they are found, the appropriate personnel are at their strongest and sharpest mentally to overcome any challenges a rescue might unveil.
Assessing Damages To Lessen Reconstruction Times
While this is rarely thought of initially, reconstruction after a devastating natural disaster is something that always eventually comes up in conversation. You have to rebuild what once existed so that everyone is able to move on with their lives and put the trauma behind them. UAVs can actually play a critical role in this part of the equation, as they are able to quickly assess damages to structures and identify the extent of the reconstruction necessary to repair the building or home.
Provide Real Time Information To Volunteers
When disasters happen, people tend to just dive right in to helping their fellow man with little regard for the dangers they might be putting themselves into. Drones can play a role in condition assessment to ensure that humans on the ground are not at risk. When structures become weak, this might not be something that people give a lot of thought to. From a different perspective, drones would be able to see the full extent of the conditions workers are facing and give them adequate time to prepare for what could happen, or to come up with a new strategy if their current efforts put them at too high of a calculated risk.
Upload Their Imagery and Data For 3D Models of Natural Disaster Zones
3D modeling has also been something that the world has recently started to get in to. In terms of disaster relief, this could be an excellent way to see depictions of damages and areas most severely affected by the incident. According to an article released by Forbes, imagery from drones has been able to be successfully uploaded and translated into 3D renderings for those assessing damages and working through the necessary steps towards repairing these same damages.
An official SAR drone might not be far off, as it seems that more and more people are noticing the benefits to the service that UAVs can provide amid a significant crisis. Even major companies like Land Rover have developed entire manned vehicles for organizations like the Red Cross that are equipped with a highly functional SAR drone for all manner of operations. You can see a short video (called Project Hero) about this technology and gear below.
For now, much of the relief efforts are volunteer based, though this hasn’t stopped the world from appreciating their role in mitigating the loss of life and property in light of natural disasters and severe weather.