Finding New Uses for Drones in the Aftermath of Hurricane Irma

Despite all of the negative press the use of surveillance drones has undergone since their inception, members of the Daytona Beach Police Department (DBPD) made use of a pair of drones when Hurricane Irma was bearing down on their city. A small group of DBPD police officers used a number of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) equipped with high definition video cameras to survey areas around the city before Hurricane Irma arrived.

Widespread Damage Expected
With hurricane Irma predicted to churn her way up through the entire state causing massive widespread damage, the officers were creating reference photographs and videos that could be used to assess the damage left behind. The idea would be that the same group of officers would send their drones out to perform the same aerial surveillance as they had before Irma hit.

Why Is Drone Surveillance Like This Necessary?
There are many reasons why high definition images and videos such as these are vital before, during, and after a natural disaster such as hurricane Irma. The most important of these is the emergency services can use this information to help them determine which areas were most affected by the disaster and where they most need to send the teams of first responders.

The afterimages can also be used to determine where to send power crews to repair downed lines, where roads and storm drains are blocked or damaged. They can do all of this without having to put the life of a single member of law enforcement or emergency services person in harm’s way. On top of this, the drones being used by the DBPD were able to stream live video feed that let the police department with real-time information regarding things like damage, crime, people in distress, and so much more.

Another very important use of the video and images captured by the drones lies in helping to streamline the disbursement of funds from FEMA. These high-quality images from before and after, make it much easier for the agency to determine the extent of the damage done to help them direct funding where it is needed the most first.

Not Just About Buying Drones
However, before you go running to the Chief screaming you want to add drones to your surveillance gear, there are a few things you need to know. There is more to it than training some of your fellow officers to fly them successfully and at the same time capture usable images and footage. Before you can start your own UAS program, your department will new aviation department that is dedicated to manning the drones.

For most departments, this represents a significant financial investment. There will be new policies to be developed, manpower to be trained and repurposed, and of course, plenty of ongoing training to be considered. However, the next time your department has a missing person to search for or a major disaster on the way, you may find the investment more than worth it.

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