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Drone Technology in Hurricane Emergency Response

Drone Technology in Hurricane Emergency Response










Our March 23rd (2018) Teen Science Café in Oxford Hills Maine was invaded by several drones! In fact, Colonel Dan Leclair of the University of Maine at Augusta brought drones of all sizes and demonstrated how they were used following hurricanes to make maps of the damage that was caused. Later, some of us put together a drone using duct tape, while others of us practiced navigating and landing a small drone. About a third of us had already flown drones.

Even in 2012, mapping the damage caused by hurricanes like Hurricane Sandy was done with regular planes, which flew 3-member crews of pilot, co-pilot and photographer over a grid-like pattern determined by FEMA. Then, technicians electronically “stitched together” the photographs to assess damage. But things have changed dramatically with drones. Now you can simply attach the equivalent of a “go-pro” camera to the underside of a drone. This makes mapping much easier and cheaper than it would be with planes. Colonel Leclair talked about the advantages of a drone being able to go where a plane can’t go: above a hurricane, a wildfire, or a burning building. In addition to mapping the severity of the disaster, drones can deliver much-needed supplies, even portable cell-phone towers.

In fact, the uses of drones in emergency response are endless. Drones are used to:
• Assess the condition of powerlines after a storm. It’s faster and easier for a drone to see what lines are down and what needs to be fixed.
• Because all kinds of sensors can be used on drones, you can use a sensitive temperature probe to locate missing people (their temperatures are different from those of other animals).
• Police departments are using drones to reconstruct accident scenes. They can photograph the skid marks and figure out distances accurately. It makes police work at the scene far more objective.
• One of the biggest uses of drones in the country is in detecting and monitoring forest fires.

Colonel Leclair talked about how to learn to fly drones for use in emergency response. At his college, the University of Maine at Augusta, you can get a drone certificate by taking 30 credit hours, including courses in technology, photography, math, and aviation. You can do this no matter what your major is. Many community colleges are starting to offer drone programs.

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