Storm Resiliency Efforts
With Hurricane Ian knocking out power to 2.6 million and causing billions of dollars in damage in September 2022, the need for storm recovery efforts are greatly apparent. Many are looking to use UAS as part of the recovery effort with major weather-impacting events increasing in frequency and continuing to affect millions of people. When roads are destroyed or blocked during impactful weather events — and over land travel is no longer a feasible, straightforward or a safe option — a UAS can supply aerial footage that provides information on broken levees, damaged homes and buildings, and information on where victims might still be located. Time is crucial in the minutes and hours immediately following such a major weather event, when it comes to saving lives. This information also provides crucial insights for emergency first responders to safely navigate an area where power lines might be downed by a storm or roads are considered impassable.
“UAS can provide highly dense data in situations where this information needs to be made available quickly,” says Coryell Kelsey, senior technology and innovation consultant at Burns & McDonnell. “Tornadoes, hurricanes and massive winter storms will continue to happen. Remote sensing technology lends itself well to help emergency first responders in those dangerous scenarios.”
While considered a major benefit for storm resiliency, navigating increasingly complicated airspace poses significant challenges. While capturing data for a small commercial project might require approval from only a project manager or other internal source, the situation following a major weather event is often more complex. Opening up the airspace for storm recovery efforts introduces the challenge of adequate communication between emergency first responders to prevent crashes from occurring as a result of overlapping flying devices.
The use of unmanned aerial systems is expanding, extending across all industries. Large initiatives, such as hardening the grid, involve hundreds of miles of transmission lines and other electrical infrastructure. Assessing these geographic areas, as well as the actual assets, with aerial imagery and cataloging that information into cohesive and informative touchpoints will be crucial as these projects progress.
“The biggest challenge with capturing UAS data is taking that information and interpreting it in a way that is useful,” says Nathan Kilgore, a senior geologist at Burns & McDonnell. “Knowing how to integrate data into a forward-thinking model for teams to make sense of is what the technology is best used for.”
When access to a project site is restricted or blocked, and where preplanning or project progress is needed, UAS can be rapidly deployed to acquire site-specific data that helps project teams make critical decisions.