FAA works with UAV operators to support hurricane recovery efforts in US


The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has worked with local unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or drone operators in Florida to accelerate the response and recovery efforts in Sunshine State, which is ravaged by the aftermath of hurricane Irma.

After receiving requests from various agencies to fly drones in the hurricane affected areas, FAA has so far issued 132 airspace authorisations to ensure safe operations of drones.

Following the approval, the US Air National Guard has deployed drones, which are usually used in combat operations, to conduct aerial surveys of the damage.

Private operators, including Airbus’ commercial drone services division Airbus Aerialis, are also helping insurance companies to act more quickly on claims coming in from affected homeowners.

Airbus Aerial is combining data from drones, manned aircraft and satellite data to provide a clear picture of specific locations before and after the incident.

"I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the hurricane response will be looked back upon as a landmark in the evolution of drone usage in this country."

In addition, Florida Power and Light (FPL) has deployed 49 drone teams to survey parts of Florida that are not accessible by vehicles.

Using drones, the company has been able to restore electricity, particularly air conditioning, for 4.4 million of its customers.

Last week, FAA administrator Michael Huerta said: “Essentially, every drone that flew meant that a traditional aircraft was not putting an additional strain on an already fragile system.

“I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the hurricane response will be looked back upon as a landmark in the evolution of drone usage in this country.”

FAA has also issued 137 authorisations to drone operators to conduct search and rescue missions, as well as evaluate damage to roads, bridges and other critical infrastructure in Houston, Texas.

Last month, the agency warned unauthorised drone users to stay away from rescue efforts being carried out in response to hurricane Harvey that devastated parts of Texas before the outbreak of hurricane Irma.