The recent destruction caused by Hurricane Florence was an important reminder of how vital it is to react quickly and decisively during natural disasters. That’s why many businesses and government agencies are now turning to drones to help make better decisions, operate in areas that were traditionally inaccessible and—perhaps more importantly— help communities rebuild in the wake of such devastation.

Public safety drones

[Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership]

Expanding operations

Recently, American insurance company State Farm used the senseFly eBee fixed-wing drone, which is part of the Parrot Business Solutions portfolio, to help assess the damage in states impacted by Hurricane Florence.

The insurance company was granted a special waiver by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for drone operations. The waiver gave approval for longer-distance flights over densely populated areas and flights beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) in four states impacted by the hurricane.

Current FAA regulations heavily restrict both types of flight permissions, making it difficult during and after natural disasters for individuals and companies, such as State Farm, to access areas affected by flooding and other hurricane-related damage.

“State Farm needs to quickly assess damage after significant weather events,” said Robert Yi, Senior Vice President – State Farm in a press release. “Drone technology provides us with the capability to quickly deploy over a catastrophe site and assess damage from the air. The data we obtain from drone flights can be used to help us determine the severity of damage. This also allows us to place our Claims team on-the-ground and evaluate uninhabitable insured property.”

To help get the approvals, State Farm worked with the Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP) to assess a wide range of potential risks and devise strategies to solve them. Their teams worked together with senseFly, which provided support and assistance on the ground, to collect data on a variety of parameters, including the drone’s communications performance, navigation precision and the risk of injury to humans.

“Being able to quickly and safely assess damage is one of many benefits drones provide,” said Matt Delano, Field Operations Manager at senseFly, who helped provide support to State Farm and MAAP during their flight assessments. “Despite heavy restrictions and regulations from federal and local governments, drones are an effective solution to help with issues of public safety, especially in the wake of natural disasters such as hurricanes, and we’re happy we can help shine a light on the benefits they provide.”

Ultimately, the strength of the data collected by the teams proved effective in the FAA granting State Farm the permissions needed to safely conduct aerial damage-assessment operations.

Drones defying danger

It’s not just fixed-wing drones, such as the all-new eBee X—which can cover and map long stretches quickly and accurately—that are proving their worth in dangerous situations. The new ANAFI Work, with its 4K HDR video camera and 21 MP sensor, is another safe way to conduct building and infrastructure inspections.

ANAFI Work fire

[Photo courtesy of the Firefighting department of Melun]

ANAFI Work was recently deployed by the Firefighting unit of Melun, near Paris, when a truck full of chemicals tilted over at a roundabout. By using ANAFI Work as a scouting tool, they were able to get an aerial view of the spillage before sending in their team.

“For our missions we chose the Parrot drone solution, ANAFI Work, because it’s easy-to-carry. It’s also very easy-to-use, extremely intuitive to pilot which is critical for our operations” said Olivier Compta, Commanding Officer of the Firefighting unit of Melun. “Four batteries of 25 minutes allow us to conduct long missions, without recharging or requiring additional batteries. And thanks to the high-resolution camera, we get the best aerial images during our missions.”

Drones for good

Whether it’s natural disasters such as Hurricane Florence or unfortunate accidents like the chemical spill in France, drones continue to play an important role in helping people and keeping those doing the helping safer and better informed.