On the 25 August 2017, Hurricane Harvey started its destructive path and ripped through the southern part of Texas. It was expected to carry on moving across the state, but this hurricane went onto do something which left a number of locals and meteorologists in shock. Harvey decided to pause over Houston where it went onto drop devastating amounts of rain along with extreme winds that left this city in disrepair.
The residents in this city were asked to vacate their homes, well before Harvey arrived, not aware that the hurricane would be sticking around the way it did. Since the evacuations at that stage were not mandatory, 51 inches in rain fell over the following 4 days, the roads and homes were flooded making this city impassable, the news channels went onto show many images of families that were forced to find refuge from the water on their rooftops while waiting for boats and helicopters to come to their rescue from waters that continued to rise.
This natural disaster has been said to be the cause of over 120 billion dollars associated with damages, and many experts agree that it will take Texas a number of years to reach normality. Over 30,000 homes were completely flooded and approximately over 1 million cars were water-logged. This is the time that drone fleets have come into action in order to assist with assessing damages as Texas has started to rebuild.
Around a year ago, the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) started to administer the licenses for a commercial based drone operation. To date there are almost 2,000 of these drones in Houston. While the concept is still fairly new, the drones have to ensure that they only fly below 400 feet, which is outside the line-of-site of pilots and never over a large crowd. These drones are used currently to access the areas that are harder to reach, check on bridges for any structural damages and to check on the roads that appear washed-out as water is starting to dry-out.
Another interesting and latest role for these drones after Hurricane Harvey is to assess the damages for the insurance adjusters. With the significant amount of damages, this saves the adjusters on a lot of time by having these drones take images of these damages. This can spare the employees from having to climb onto roofs or trying to access areas that are hard to reach. Since the drones are able to easily access such spaces, it offers a safer and easier method for the insurance adjusters. The insurance companies are expecting that they can cut down the amount of times they need to visit a location into a single trip with a drone. However, with all things, drones are accompanied by their own limitations.
The drones are unable to operate and fly in rain or wind. They are also unable to gain access into homes in order to assess interior damages. The adjusters will still need to complete these tasks by themselves in these situations. However, insurance companies agree that this can assist their clients in achieving faster claims and a way to get back to their lives quicker and therefore, getting their money to their customers faster.
Drones have also become useful for the utility companies. They use these drones to check on the fuel lines, power lines along with a host of other utility types, which will assist in getting these restored quicker as the water starts to recede. In order to provide ideas on the amount of time a drone can save compared to sending someone out in order to inspect every home, has been estimated that 3 homes in one hour can easily be inspected with an iPad operated drone. Drones have definitely revolutionized relief which can be offered when natural disasters occur.