New method to assess damage from natural disasters

and now specialize in recovery could, through some central entity like the Federal Emergency Management Agency, be allocated to various disaster regions based on need. Right now, the decision of how assets are allocated is information-driven, but it is based on word of mouth or qualitative assessments.”

Dannemiller and his colleagues put their theory and model to the test this summer after Hurricane Harvey decimated the Texas Gulf Coast. The researchers spent several days in the region gathering aerial imagery and footage they then brought back to Texas Tech. The imagery, footage and ground assessment data were used to create this information-based approach to determine the cost of debris removal.

Even though researchers had other opportunities previously, Harvey proved to be the perfect event to test their theories and practices.

“We’ve used these methods in the past but we’ve never used them for disaster recovery,” Dannemiller said. “Harvey was the right event because it was local and provided us the opportunity to travel a short distance, gather a large amount of data and validate our methodology so we could move to the next phase.”

Measuring the devastation
Flying over a region hit by a natural disaster is nothing new. The problem is that hiring a pilot to fly over numerous disaster regions to gather information can be expensive. Not only do you have to pay to hire the pilot, but there also is the cost for use of the aircraft, the fuel and the expensive photography equipment used to take pictures from 10,000 to 20,000 feet.

Additionally, manned flights are extremely time-consuming. A pilot can fly over a large region but the aircraft is expensive to maintain. It can add up to thousands of dollars per flight hour.

While they can’t fly as large a region as manned aircraft, drones can make more flights in the same time using photography equipment that provides much more accurate assessments than imagery provided from manned aircraft. Drones can also fly under any cloud cover that obstructs regions being photographed during manned flights.

When using drones, the only cost encumbered by the city or recovery entity is the