The Use of Expendable UAVs After Typhoon Haiyan

My colleague Dr. Imes Chiu recently co-authored this report (PDF) on his team’s use of expendable UAVs following Typhoon Haiyan (known as Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines). Imes is Chief of Applied Research at the Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance (COE-DMHA) based in Honolulu, Hawaii.

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Highlights of the report:

  • “The interdisciplinary […] team concluded that during the rapid response phase of disaster management, aerial imagery of damaged areas proved more useful than a detailed needs-assessment.”
  • “Imagery provided by civil drones enabled local government units to immediately and accurately assess the extent of the damage in their jurisdictions, even when operating with a significantly reduced staff.”
  • “What they [relief workers] actually need at this point is to get an accurate understanding and a very detailed picture at the village level, at the camp level, as to what exactly is going on.”
  • “During Haiyan recovery operations, civil drones were quickly adopted as routine operating procedures for many humanitarian groups. Overcoming the logistical challenges posed by massive debris in Tacloban, civil drones provided many NGOs much needed situational awareness at a time when needs-assessment teams did not have access to the disaster area.”
  • “Initially used to pinpoint potential base camp locations for aid workers, many NGOs began adapted the use of civil drones to inform their relief, rescue and recovery operations from aerial views of infrastructure devastation, road and power line damages, emergency areas and relief distribution networks. Civil drones also helped ensure the safety of aid workers through regular information feeds of their movements in the affected areas.”
  • “The biggest challenge […] was determining a launch & recovery site sufficient for a fixed-wing xUAV, so the team used a multi-rotor helicopter drone that is vertically launched and recovered. Imagery from both video and still photography informed the acquisition team where to launch and recover the larger fixed-wing unit.”
  • “Even though this UAV subclass is termed ‘expendable,’ it does not mean the team intentionally or willingly ‘expends’ them, rather it means that the cost is so low and accessibility so high that the drones can be readily replace in case of loss—therefore users are not inhibited by the cost & loss factors.”
  • “A significant benefit of the xUAV is as an asset that could be locally employed and managed. They do not require a centralized command system; they are ‘locally modifiable’ so changes to the system can easily be done to meet community needs. These expendable systems by nature are small, inexpensive and not transportation limited. Unlike larger systems, xUAV could easily be hand carried to remote locations. The components are derived from everyday consumer technology backed by a large network of web-based support systems, often set-up by the academic community.”
  • “The team’s first effort started from a fixed-wing xUAV that covered an area of approximately 1.5 square kilometers at an altitude of 150 meters. The total flight time was approximately 30 minutes. The imagery acquired rendered a final mosaic at eight centimeter per pixel. The current xUAV configuration can fly and capture imagery for approximately an hour.”
  • “The xUAV platform used to generate the Tacloban mosaic imagery consisted of widely available parts that can be purchased for approximately $1,000. This is significantly cheaper than the more expensive commercial ‘turnkey’ systems.”



See Also:

  • Welcome to the Humanitarian UAV Network [link]
  • How UAVs are Making a Difference in Disaster Response [link]
  • Humanitarians Using UAVs for Post Disaster Recovery [link]
  • Grassroots UAVs for Disaster Response [link]
  • Using UAVs for Search & Rescue [link]
  • Debrief: UAV/Drone Search & Rescue Challenge [link]
  • Crowdsourcing Analysis of UAV Imagery for Search/Rescue [link]
  • Check-List for Flying UAVs in Humanitarian Settings [link]

One response to “The Use of Expendable UAVs After Typhoon Haiyan

  1. Pingback: Humanitarians in the Sky: Using UAVs for Disaster Response | iRevolution

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