New method to assess damage from natural disasters

time and services of the pilot. Also, multiple drones can be flown at the same time by multiple pilots instead of being reliant on just one pilot or one plane.

Drones also allow researchers to take time-lapse measurements of areas to study how quickly and efficiently the debris is being removed and how quickly the region can recover after a month, six months, a year or longer. All in all, it’s a method of debris measurement that is immensely more cost-effective and efficient than using word of mouth from the ground and manned aircraft in the sky.

With that impetus, Dannemiller and others made the trek to South Texas to put their theories to the test. The first task was getting permission.

Helping the recovery effort
“We already had connections with emergency and disaster managers,” Dannemiller said. “All we had to do was figure out what the right region was to fly. We decided on three different cities. We went down there and drove the areas to determine which one of the three was the best.”

The Texas Tech researchers chose those regions hardest hit by Harvey in terms of wind damage, not so much surge damage or flooding. Once there, the researchers contacted the proper authorities in each city to discuss their plans. If there was a concern from authorities or residents about the drones flying in a certain area, the research team simply would not fly that area. Most times, though, everyone was fine with what the researchers were doing.

“That is one of the things that is really surprising and welcoming after most disasters,” Dannemiller said. “If you show you are generally there to help, to make things better, people are very accommodating, open, and even willing to help us gather what we need so we can let them get back to the business of putting their lives back together.”

The researchers also flew temporary landfills where removal companies dump debris in order to build baselines for comparison. Removal companies base their charges to cities on debris volumes and the number of days it takes to remove those volumes. This information is then provided to the cities