22 August 2013

Sighting: Unhated Drones for Rescue Operations [video]

This story via TechCrunch 

After a natural disaster struck, causing flooding, landslides and devastation in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand, pilgrims and residents were isolated. Assessment crews were unable to inspect affected regions, and helicopters were in short supply even when they could be effectively deployed. 

Social Drones is an Indian startup  They have designed (or at least own) what they're calling "bi-, quad- and octocopters." Company engineers told a TechCrunch reporter that their UAVs had been deployed for surveillance and delivery of light medical supplies in the affected areas. Other technology providers were also involved. According to comments posted to TechCrunch, NETRA quadcopters were also used to search for survivors and to assist in rescue operations.

The need is not only for Himalayan disasters. In 2012's Hurricane Sandy, many roads and coastal areas of New York and New Jersey were inaccessible due to fallen trees and flooding. UAVs could have been deployed to assist with damage assessment and to aid in prioritizing rescue and repair operations. So far as DullDirtyDangerous is aware, none were used for this purpose, even though some UAV manufacturers are based as close as Maryland (e.g, UAV Solutions).

In 2007, a DARPA workshop spearheaded by then Program Manager Dr. Kendra Moore was convened to address the issue of stimulating new technologies to assist in relief operations.
The recent and increasing prominence of Stability, Security, Transition and Reconstruction (SSTR) and Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations pose new challenges for the U.S. military. . . These operations involve a large, diverse mix of military organizations, nonmilitary government organizations, regional and international government agencies, nongovernmental organizations, private volunteer organizations, individual volunteers and the local population. . . 
Since the time of that workshop, DARPA has turned to a more straightforward use of UAVs to support a variety of DoD missions, such as with the humanoid ATLAS


Use of UAVs and other intelligent devices for SSTR and HADR operations may already be occurring more often than the public understands. In order to gain public acceptance for wider UAV deployments in a domestic U.S. climate beset by privacy and legitimacy concerns, wider discussion of beneficial applications is key.

Read more on the Uttarakhand disaster in this video.

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