U. S. companies are urging federal aviation regulators to speed up the use of drones in disaster response and relief operations in the United States.
The consulting firm’s 32 Advisors propose the use of drones for various purposes. These range from response planning and damage assessment to supply delivery.
The view from above is key for humanitarian response, which explains why satellite imaging has played a pivotal role in relief operations for almost two decades now. Satellites do however present a number of limitations. These include cost, data sharing restrictions, cloud cover, and the time needed to acquire images.
In contrast, drones can capture aerial imaging at a far higher resolution. They move quickly and at a much lower cost. Unlike satellites, members of the public can actually own drones. This therefore means that disaster-affected communications can launch their own drones in response to a crisis.
Public comment is scheduled for April 24, 2015. The 52 page report is sponsored by companies that are involved in drone technology. They thus hope to use the devices to cope with hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires and other disasters. The sponsors include Boeing Co, Lockheed Martin Corp, United Parcel Service inc, IBM Corp, Willis Group Holdings Ltd and Zurich North America.
The United States officially banned drones for civil and commercial use. This is unless the operation wins FAA approval under a process that many have found to be too slow. The proposed rules finalised late 2016 or early 2017.
More than 1700 migrants are believed to have died attempting to cross the Mediterranean from North Africa to southern Europe this year. 800 deaths occurred in one incident mid-April. The International Organisation for Migration has warned that the death toll could exceed 30,000 by the end of the year. The team conducted test flights at a simulated disaster city at Texas A&M University. Using infrared cameras, the aircraft could spot people trapped in the rubble. They relayed these images back to humanitarian response teams for more effective delivery of aid.
Drones identify structural damage to buildings. Insurance companies help victims with insurance claims. However, the researchers found that for drones to be effective in such missions, they need to get into the air within 24 hours of a disaster.
Small marine machines cleared underwater debris after the Haiti earthquake in order to allow aid shipments to arrive.
Off-shore oil rigs use drones. Machines can assist with raising the alarm when workers fall overboard.