Drones are so often seen as a tool of war that their role in saving lives and property may be overlooked. A study conducted by Texas A&M University illustrates the usefulness of these robot devices for humanitarian, safety and even economic reasons. Here are five ways drones can be useful in dealing with disasters.
When a disaster occurs, time is of the essence when it comes to saving lives. Their versatility makes it possible for drones to be launched almost immediately, reducing the time to search for survivors or those trapped in debris. Equipped with cameras, infrared and other sensing equipment, a flying, floating or rolling drone can be far more effective in finding someone than can human eyes or ears. Drones can also get into small places or hover over ravaged areas for long periods of time, giving authorities a chance to assess the situation.
Drones can enter buildings that have partially collapsed and are on the verge of total collapse, eliminating the risk to rescuers. They can be particularly useful in underground or high-rise situations, searching for victims in a much shorter time span than human rescuers. Small drones can be flown into disaster settings without the fear of them causing further damage, as can human intervention. Drones can also be used to determine whether there are survivors at a disaster scene, eliminating the needless loss of rescue personnel.
Robot devices can be used to transport food, water or tools into disaster areas, improving the chance of survival of victims who may be trapped but not totally incapacitated. They can also be used as communication platforms, allowing survivors to be kept abreast of information that may be vital to them. Additionally, drones can supplement personnel in fighting fires or, at the least, in providing them with reconnaissance information to make their mission easier and safer.
Drones are relatively inexpensive when compared to full-sized vehicles, vessels or aircraft, both in terms of their purchase price and the cost of operation. A government or private emergency agency can thus use them to carry out operations at a much lower expense, which will reduce the cost of the disaster itself. Even a small private or municipal organization will thus be able to maintain a fleet of drones and their human operators at a lower cost than a single aircraft and its pilot.
Prevention is important when it comes to dealing with disasters. Their size give drones the ability to provide unique viewing angles, illustrating risks that might otherwise go unnoticed. Drones can present either small or panoramic views of areas that may be more susceptible to the effects of earthquakes, floods, mudslides, fires or human error. Whether they are used before or after tragedy strikes, drones can be vital to humans in their ongoing struggle with disasters.Guest blogger Yunhong Liu is the founder of We Talk UAV, a new drone community and news site launching later this year.