When it comes to emergency response, drones – or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) as they are often referred to – are changing the way organisations operate.
Why? Contrary to common belief, drones do more than simply give us a new view of the world – they can redefine how we understand the world and take situational awareness to a new level.
The benefits of using drones are widely documented and simple enough at face value. After all, drones can go where people can’t – collecting and capturing critical data from dangerous locations and limiting risk to government officials, police officers, fire fighters, military personnel, utility crews and others.
As such, they are an obvious tool for responding to emergencies, conducting police search and rescue operations, addressing hazmat and radiological accidents and inspecting key infrastructure.
But until recently, the challenge for public safety leaders has been how to effectively utilise drones to deliver real value back to an organisation.
Deploying a drone is easy enough, but how can you easily put drone-captured imagery into the hands of those who need it most?
New advancements in GIS technology have made drones a simple and affordable way to see events unfolding in real-time from all angles. These advancements mean drones are now capable of serving imagery to people and agencies who don’t have enough time or budget to collect and process traditional imagery sources such as satellite data. In this way, drones are ‘democratising’ the data, making it accessible and shareable with the people who work to keep our communities safe.
One of the best examples of the value a drone can offer is during a flood – where search and rescue teams and reconstruction crews need an accurate, real-time view of the situation as it unfolds. Flooded rivers are often too dangerous for rescuers to navigate – but a drone takes the journey with ease and quickly collects high-definition 3D imagery which can be used to create a before-and-after map showing the exact location of damaged infrastructure, submerged vehicles and debris. These valuable insights can be rapidly passed on to crew on the ground for their immediate use.
The broadening use and availability of drones – together with other live data sensors, Big Data, mobile technology and GPS-enabled devices – is ushering in a new era of efficiency for emergency services agencies. It’s an exciting time and definitely a space to watch.
About the author
Dr Dipak Paudyal
Principal Consultant for Remote Sensing and Imagery