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The Role of Drones in Emergency Management

Jul 5, 2022

Back to Veoci BlogThe Role of Drones in Emergency Management
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We’ve all seen the alluring videos and stunning aerial shots drones let their handlers capture. Every drone enthusiast knows just what these little machines can do, and practitioners in many industries are starting to realize how drones can drastically reshape their operations.

Emergency management is one of those industries where practitioners are beginning to work drone technology into their workspaces. As more and more emergency managers bring drones into the EOC, what roles will the unmanned crafts fill?

Situational Awareness from the Air

Let’s state the obvious: humans can’t fly. We can’t get aerial perspectives without the assistance of technology, whether that technology is a structure, vehicle, or camera. Most structures are static and all manned aerial vehicles require significant energy to get in the air. And while cameras can be fixed to a spot, their smaller stature allows us to place them more liberally.

I’m sure the first drone manufactures quickly realized — after getting their drones off the ground — that affixed cameras were the next step.

Most emergencies and disasters are dynamic events. They shapeshift as minutes pass, and the less convenient vantage points we have can suddenly become a hindrance when a disaster morphs.

Drones, simply put, offer us more convenience. Most are battery powered and are no larger than a backpack. We can quickly get drones airborne and maneuver them deftly through dangerous disaster zones, giving us eyes where our eyes can’t go.

What does this do for emergency managers? 

Situational awareness is something emergency managers have to work towards establishing during every type of emergency. Some disasters and their effects are more isolated, and building the picture for those events is a bit simpler. But some events don’t respect the confines we establish throughout our world. Wildfires and floods, just to name two, don’t care for the lines we draw on maps.

Drones push that ceiling for situational awareness higher, giving emergency managers and their teams an understanding of a disaster they wouldn’t have had in the past. They can see where wildfires are heading or where waters are expanding and make informed decisions faster.

How Drones and the EOC Interact

The emergency managers that choose to bring this technology into their EOCs will need to figure out how to integrate what drones offer into their operations.

While a drone operator can see through the on-board camera, they also need to share their findings with other stakeholders in the EOC. Ideally, an emergency manager could feed the video directly into the EOC, but screenshots can suffice.

It’s probably best to designate a small group of stakeholders as the operators and allow them to practice in low-risk environments. Drones can be a heavy investment, so it's best that operators get comfortable handling the piece of equipment.

Drones and Disaster Management

Drones also offer some benefits to the personnel actively engaged in disaster management.

The most important benefit is added safety. Drones, as we’ve discussed, can go where people can’t. Active disaster zones pose a number of risks to anyone inside them, regardless of the knowledge and caution they use. Deploying a drone for search and rescue could prevent unnecessary injuries or even save lives.

More advanced drones with more technologically capable cameras can provide a few other sets of data traditional methods can’t. Thermal imaging can quickly identify people and other materials within a collapsed building or spot ongoing fires. Teams can also build a topological picture of a disaster area through drones, adding another layer of actionable data for stakeholders involved in the disaster management process.

The Start of Something

New technology can be a risky frontier, especially in industries that value precision and caution. Drones are making their way into the operations of many organizations throughout the world, and they’re providing insights that seemed impossible just a decade or two ago. Emergency management is warming up to the technology and its capabilities, and what the little machines offer now are just a small sample of their potential.

Learn more about Veoci's solutions for emergency management.

Photo by Fikri Rasyid on Unsplash

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