New method to assess damage from natural disasters

with little to no verification from any other entity. Drones can fly all of those sites in a single day and provide volumetric estimates – usually about 12,000-15,000 cubic meters, to within 20 cubic meters.

“So, now we can look at the errors associated with the qualitative approach, provide a sampling based quantitative alternative, and the city can decide what they want to do to maximize their recovery efforts, per dollar,” Dannemiller said.

Developing the model
With the imagery, footage and information in hand, Dannemiller and his fellow researchers returned to Lubbock to begin developing the model. But processing six to eight football fields worth of area takes time, even for the most sophisticated computer programs.

The goal, ultimately, was to dial in on how much debris was created in order to develop the most accurate, information-based model for debris removal. Researchers were not concerned, at least at this point in the process, with delineating the types of debris, just the volume. That is for future research.

“The numbers contractors provide have not been verified up to this point, so no one knows how much debris was truly there,” Dannemiller said. “It is hard to believe, but, from a scientific perspective no one has ever embarked on trying to measure or validate this information.”

Dannemiller said the model also will help determine how many homes and businesses were affected, how much deforestation occurred, and how much infrastructure was damaged. Another advantage to the drone flights is their ability to take pictures at various angles, providing a three-dimensional (3-D) perspective that exceeds the information provided by the traditional overhead pictures taken by manned aircraft that only look top down.

He said that with their model, they can begin giving debris regional volumetric estimates within two days.

“What we offer that a manned flight cannot is a 3-D model so disaster managers and city planners can assess the region from a different perspective, and anyone can look at where the debris is concentrated,” Dannemiller said. “Near the coast you have a lot of structures that are built up, and debris gets caught underneath. A flight that goes straight overhead and points straight down can’t see that, but we can. So, now, disaster