At the time of writing, Hurricane Harvey has claimed 50 lives and caused more than $23 billion in property damage. The Category 3 super-storm wreaked havoc on the state of Texas, hitting parts of Louisiana hard as well. The cleanup and relief efforts in the wake of the storm are underway and, for at least parts of the collective endeavors, drones are playing a part in speeding up the process.
As the flood waters slowly recede, numerous institutions are utilizing drones to help provide assistance to those affected by the storm. Insurance companies, like Farmers and Allstate, are using iPad-controlled drones provided by the tech company Kespry to survey homes that have been damaged or wiped away by Hurricane Harvey, allowing inspectors to assess up to three homes per hour instead of the typical three homes per day. The expediency these drones provide in assessing damages will help those that are insured to receive payouts faster to help rebuild their homes once the flood waters recede.
In addition to private insurance companies, emergency crews and public utility groups are assessing damages and identifying civilians in need of assistance using drone surveillance. With people still trapped in their homes, drones allow emergency crews to quickly identify and respond to lives that are in danger. Without them, emergency crews would be forced to use small boats to cross flooded streets - a much slower process.
The use of drones for relief efforts was approved by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) for both commercial and government entities. From what we know, 43 commercial operators were given the go-ahead to operate drones both in and around the Houston area to try and expedite the relief efforts following the storm. To prevent potential interference, personal drones are not allowed to be used at this time within 100 miles of Houston, TX.
Air Force Maj. Gen. James Witham, Director of Domestic Operations for the U.S. National Guard said "the potential for drone impact is a big deal". With companies like DJI, which continue to push drone technology to the masses, it's likely that they'll become critical to carrying out relief efforts across the world following major disasters.