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Disaster Relief Drones – The future of emergency response

Disaster Relief Drones are the future

This is not shocking news to anyone following the unmanned vehicle market. These vehicles are already playing a role in disaster relief, emergency response, and many other areas. However, the Red Cross, in combination with Measure, has delivered a study of this area that reaches this conclusion. It is good to see organizations such as the Red Cross looking to embrace drones.

Recommendations made to the FAA by Measure in this report, as noted on their site, for disaster relief drones:

  1. Develop an emergency COA process for private sector and non-profit organizations that would allow for the on-demand operation of drones post-disaster and issue blanket approval for locations in which these entities can fly.
  2. Permit small and microUAS operations in controlled airspace within disaster areas.
  3. Permit commercial small and microUAS operations over populated areas during declared emergencies.
  4. Accelerate the implementation of the new unmanned aircraft operator certificate requirement to the existing Section 333 exemption process.
  5. Encourage data sharing between governments, the private sector, and commercial drone operators to maximize response strategy, speed, and efficiency.
  6. Encourage the development and implementation of Privacy Best Practices for drone operations in accordance with Presidential Memorandum, “Promoting Economic Competitiveness While Safeguarding Privacy, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties in Domestic Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems.” Verify drone operators observe all applicable local, state, and federal privacy laws.
  7. In the event of a disaster, have in place a defined process for scaling up FAA staff resources to process requests to fly so that they can be handled quickly.
  8. Constantly adapt FAA drone regulations as airspace integration and deployment models evolve.

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We agree with these recommendations as long as all air operations, drone-based or otherwise, are controlled by the leading authority in the response operations.  Unmanned vehicles can, and will, make a huge positive impact as long as efforts are coordinated and common sense guidelines, such as our hobbyist drone guidelines, are followed.

Disaster relief drones are critical to support.  We encourage the FAA to find a way to further fast track request for the use of, and provide education on the use of,  drones by emergency personnel.  While commercial opportunities abound it is important that emergency personnel are prepared for Nepal-like disaster at all times, in all ways.  Technology like this can help, and needs to be an area of focus.

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