Drones are increasingly being used for disaster relief worldwide. Its use is increasing, especially in regions that lack advanced infrastructure and emergency response. The natural response to disasters is to look for ways to help those that are affected, and one way to make it easier is by using drones. While drones have received mixed criticism for its ability to invade privacy and be deployed in the war, it offers a safe option for relief and disasters. Natural and man-made disasters can destroy environments, making it difficult for relief workers to access some areas and provide assistance. Drones can reach areas where relief workers and vehicles can’t.
There are numerous benefits of drones when it comes to disaster preparedness, such as:
Damaged roads, floods, and rubble can get in the way of emergency responders to get the needed aid and supplies to the people trapped. Drones can be used to deliver significant payloads easily because they rise above the obstacles. These things can drop goods where they are needed.
Also, drones help in communication as it becomes an issue when significant damage to infrastructure has occurred as a result of an earthquake, hurricanes, and other disasters. With its ability to fly tethered indefinitely, drones have the ability to create a temporary Wi-Fi or cellular hotspots to allow urgent communication needs to be met. This allows people to ask for help where it’s needed the most.
Search and rescue
In areas of dense foliage or rubble in which people are trapped or in nighttime searches, drones can help spot humans by thermal imaging cameras. These cameras allow operators to spot humans, and the built-in GPS system in drones can help pinpoint the exact location of victims. Some drones have a spotlight – an add-on that’s proved to be useful in search and rescue operations, especially during the night. Also, the zoom cameras can help specify the individual needs of the people out of a crowd or amidst the rubble and other distractions. The ability to zoom in can also enable easy facial identification when searching for someone, which helps law enforcement officers.
In disaster-stricken and disaster-prone areas, large-scale disasters benefit from visual imaging and 3D mapping. Aircraft can be used here, but it’s often expensive to do so, and it takes too much time to operate during emergency situations. Using drones to map disasters provide a greater advantage when it comes to costs and a more rapid response compared to traditional methods. Drones can be quickly deployed and generate high-resolution 3D mapping to assess the severity of damage and to identify hotspot areas. Then, the data can be uploaded in real-time to help plan and operate search, evacuation, and relief efforts.
Delivering emergency infrastructures and supplies
After natural disasters or terrorist attacks, the infrastructure supply lines are often cut and disabled. When bridges, roads, communication cables, water lines, and gas are compromised, the safety of the residents is also in danger. To mitigate further damage and suffering, rescue teams can use drones to support infrastructure, establish communication, and deliver supplies.
Wildfires have swept through large areas of southern California just recently, and the local state fire agency worked together with the California Air National Guard to use drones to collect large amounts of data about the coverage of the fire. It would have been nearly impossible for ground teams to acquire that data on time. Even with using manned aircraft, pilots and crews are put into serious danger to endure high temperatures, dangerous winds, low visibility, and high levels of stress. Drones can help firefighters to pinpoint areas of quickly-progressing fire to improve the efficiency of firefighting. In instances where firefighters can’t penetrate, drones can be used to drip fire retardants safely. Bigger drones can help transport people and supplies, while large numbers of smaller drones can be deployed to provide greater awareness.
Helping hurricane relief efforts
In 2017, drones were extensively used for hurricane relief efforts. The drones assessed flood damage and predicted areas of future flood risk. The drones found the areas with the greatest need fast and reduced the need for flying traditional aircraft, which provided invaluable assistance to first responders.
Best Drones for Disasters
Now that you know the capabilities of drones when it comes to disasters, here are some of the best drones that are reliable enough to be used properly for duty during disaster situations.
If you’re a drone professional or enthusiast, you know DJI is one of the best brands to rely on. The Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 is stable, responsible, and provides cinema-quality footage. It’s even smart enough to fly without you. It’s not a new model, but it remains an excellent choice that won’t let you down.
This drone has a rock-solid hover mode and the best in class drone that provides enough depth and features to suit both beginners and professionals. It has a maximum transmission range of 4.3 miles – a significant improvement from the 3.1-mile range of the Phantom 4. It has a maximum speed of 45 mph. It’s a large drone compared to most models, making it suitable for bringing a safe and everyday payload. It may not seem as much, but this drone excels at the image capturing.
The onboard camera comes with a 20 MP CMOS sensor and a mechanical shutter that eliminates rolling shutter distortion. Its enhanced video processing system allows videos to be captured in cinema 4K at 100 Mbps, enabling you to achieve high-resolution shots. Its precise mechanical shutter eliminates the rolling shutter distortion when capturing fast-moving objects or when it’s flying at full speed. It allows 1080p live streaming at a distance of eight kilometers.
DJI Phantom Pro 4’s battery is rated up to 30 minutes of flight time. The funny thing about this drone is the remote controller has a larger battery than the drone itself. You can avail of the remote controller or use the DJI GO 4 app and control it using your Android or Apple device.
- Smart, fast and easy to fly
- Great camera
- Suitable for bringing a light payload
- Far range of 4.3 miles
- Enhanced videos
- 30 minutes of flight time
- Controller sync issues
The Freefly Systems ALTA UAV is a go-to drone for many who are out there who need a very dependable, easy to carry yet uncompromising racehorse sturdy enough to carry payloads of up to 15 pounds. The ALTA UAVs are popularly used in aerial cinematography, but its payload capacity makes it a great drone for disaster relief. It’s an octo-rotor drone with a large size but also comes with a large capacity.
This drone can be unpacked and take for flying within five minutes. It captures cinematic aerial shots better than most camera drones. It can capture 4k videos. You have the option for either sky view or ground view, as the camera can be safely mounted on top or bottom.
Guided by the ingenious Synapse flight controller, this drone offers a well-engineered control system that allows pilots to have a thorough range of motion for their shots. It combines high quality calibrated sensors with proprietary control algorithms to allow users to execute complex flight patterns easily.
- Easy to set-up
- 15-lb payload capacity
- Captures cinematic shots
- The camera can be mounted on to or bottom
- Well-engineered control system
Here’s another great product by DJI – the DJI Matrice 600 Pro. This hexacopter is designed for professional aerial photography and industrial applications. By offering a flexible payload option of 6 kg and an extremely powerful propulsion system, this drone is one of the most versatile and reliable UAVs in the market.
The DJI Matrice 600 Pro is very easy to assemble. The arms and antennas are already pre-installed to reduce the assembly time. It also allows the mounting of additional modules. It comes with dust-proof propulsion systems and actively cooled motors, ensuring that the drone will operate effectively without any problems despite the conditions on which it’s used. It uses a sine-wave driven, intelligent electronic speed controller that ensures it performs safely, accurately, and efficiently. Its advanced A3 Pro controller easily adjusts flight parameters based on different payloads. This drone can fly as far as 5 km, depending on flight conditions. It can hover up to 18 minutes, and it requires six flight batteries.
It uses a Zenmuse camera and gimbal, which is compatible with a range of other professional cameras from the Micro Four Thirds systems to the famous RED Epic. You can easily attach any professional camera to the Matrice 600, making it an ideal camera drone for professional purposes and for disaster-related surveying. It offers high frame rates and high-definition live streaming.
- Easy to assemble
- 6-kg payload capacity
- Powerful propulsion system
- Advanced controller
- Zenmuse camera and gimbal
- Most professional cameras can be attached to it
- HD live streaming
- Can only be operated by professionals