Drone infrastructure in disaster recovery

The application of UAVs in disaster response and recovery efforts

Disaster prevention

One of the best investments in terms of handling disasters is prevention. This is especially true for disasters relating to or affecting infrastructure objects like bridges, power lines, gas pipes, etc.

In many cases, manual inspections of such objects are cumbersome and, unfortunately, performed with unacceptably low quality. The easy solution is deploying autonomous drones to monitor and scan for potential issues. Placing a network of drone-in-a-box solutions in critical areas and instructing them to run regular inspections can accumulate data on wear and tear, which is essential to forecasting potential disasters.

Such drone infrastructure could be operating UAVs carrying payloads, such as:
  • LiDAR – to scan the surfaces and detect decay;
  • Gas sensors – to detect potential gas leaks;
  • Cameras – to record visual proof of status.
Drones can conduct pre-disaster surveys and map at-risk areas, which can help officials to identify potential hazards and prepare response plans accordingly. They can also help train emergency responders for future disaster response operations.
Breakdown and planning of actions within the mission area (disaster zone)

Disaster protection

Nature, humans, and animals cause many disasters. Whether malicious or by accident, these can have severe consequences. Protecting critical infrastructure and areas must be organized as part of your disaster recovery strategy. Some of the solutions include:
  • Tethered drones – hovering 200m in the air, these can provide 24/7 video coverage of protected areas and beyond
  • Thermal cameras – trespassers often are most challenging to detect at night, but it’s difficult to hide one’s heat signature
  • Patrol drones – flying perimeter or point-to-point missions, these drones can traverse at 40km/hr+ speeds, capturing and analyzing the situation with AI

Disaster mitigation

By definition, mitigation means reducing the severity, seriousness, or painfulness of something. To reduce the severity of a disaster, which just struck, responders need to have as straightforward as possible understanding of the situation, whether it’s on the ground or elsewhere. Having a drone infrastructure deployed and ready to react at a minute’s notice is essential for a successful mitigation strategy:
  • Infrastructure monitoring – drones can establish an ongoing monitoring view of the situation, which can help the responders keep track of the evolving situation
  • Damage assessments – high-quality images and video provided by drones can give precise and objective information about the scale and severity of the disaster
  • Visibility – especially when a disaster takes place at night, or there are other visibility issues, drones carrying light projectors or similar devices can lighten up the stricken area to support other activities

Disaster response

Once the first mitigation efforts have been performed, it is time to tackle the disaster at hand. Again, drones can provide invaluable help to both those who are responding on site as well as those responsible for the disaster response coordination:
  • Delivering aid - In the aftermath of a disaster, drones can deliver essential supplies such as food, water, medicine, and blankets to victims in remote or inaccessible areas.
  • Search and rescue - Drones equipped with cameras can quickly search and locate victims or survivors in hard-to-reach areas such as collapsed buildings, flood zones, or wilderness.
  • Impact analysis – Often, the disaster effects will evolve. Drones can provide accurate information about the erosion of buildings and infrastructure objects in real-time. This, combined with AI capabilities, can help shape the response strategy.

Disaster recovery

Once the dust has settled, it is time to plan and execute the recovery. In the case of disasters, a lot of the effort is based on situational awareness and planning the road ahead. It is often difficult to assess the long-term effects, so gathering as much information as possible is critical:

  • Damage assessment - drones can help to accelerate the recovery process by conducting damage assessments, monitoring the progress of recovery efforts, and identifying areas that require additional resources or support
  • Planning and coordination - Drones can help the planning and coordination efforts by providing real-time data and situational awareness to disaster recovery teams. This can help to ensure that recovery efforts are well-coordinated and effective and that resources are deployed where they are most needed.
  • Progress monitoring – UAVs can help monitor the restoration of critical infrastructure such as power lines, roads, and bridges. Accountability is crucial; regular reports on progress from a stable drone-based infrastructure can help.

Overall, UAVs provide valuable support to a disaster framework by providing real-time data and situational awareness to emergency responders, accelerating recovery, and mitigating potential hazards.

The economic benefits

While the primary goal of disaster recovery planning is alleviating human suffering and loss, everything comes at a price. Deploying drone infrastructure to support the overall disaster recovery framework can provide significant economic benefits, including cost savings, increased efficiency, enhanced safety, improved data analysis, etc.
  • Cost Savings - Drones can be more cost-effective than traditional methods of damage assessment and infrastructure inspection, which often require expensive equipment and labor-intensive processes. Using drones, disaster response and recovery teams can save time and money, which can be redirected to other important recovery efforts.
  • Improved Efficiency - Drones can cover large areas quickly and efficiently, providing real-time data and situational awareness to emergency responders and recovery teams. This can help streamline recovery efforts, reduce downtime, and speed up the recovery process.
  • Increased Safety - Using drones, disaster response and recovery teams can minimize the risk of injury and loss of life associated with dangerous tasks such as building inspections, search and rescue operations, and environmental monitoring. This can help protect workers and ensure recovery efforts are carried out safely and effectively.
  • Enhanced Data Analysis - Drones can capture high-resolution images and videos of disaster-affected areas, which can be used to create detailed maps and models for data analysis. This can provide valuable insights into the extent of damage, the areas that require the most attention, and the effectiveness of recovery efforts.
In summary
Unmanned aerial vehicles can be extremely useful tools when handling disaster scenarios. Their capabilities and agility can and already do contribute to saving lives. If you are interested in how drones and drone infrastructure can support your mission, contact Microavia!

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