Texas Public Radio reports on how drones can be used for geographical research. "For years, commercial drones have improved with better battery life, stronger motors, lower cost and are easier to use. Researchers are increasingly turning to drones to collect data they couldn’t before, including biologists using them to count trees and officials to monitor snow depth. Surpless and his students are exploring what these exposed, striated rock outcroppings — the result of stresses from tectonic plates — can tell them about the fault zone below. They are asking questions like: 'How permeable is it' and 'what does the network of fractured rock look like?' The answers, he said, have implications for oil and gas exploration, understanding of how water moves through these areas and, most importantly, how far and where an earthquake’s waves would travel."
The New York Times reports on how drones are saving money and time on big construction projects, while also increasing safety for workers on site. "On building sites, drones are saving money and time by providing digital images, maps and other files that can be shared in a matter of minutes, said Mike Winn, the chief executive of DroneDeploy, a company founded five years ago in San Francisco that creates software for, among other uses, operating drones with mobile apps. Drones are reducing the travel time for busy executives, Mr. Winn said. 'The head office can see what’s going on, and the safety team, the costing team, the designers — all of them can contribute to the project, share data and comment on it, without actually going to the job.' They could also improve safety, too. In the days before drones, Mr. Winn said, measuring the roof of a house for solar panels would require 'a guy with a tape measure to climb up there,' which often produced inaccurate results and, like anything involving heights, was dangerous."
HuffPost reports on the growing use of drones by police departments to investigate car accidents. "For decades, police investigators at crash scenes used chalk marks, tape measures and roller-wheels to record measurements and skid marks to help them assess what happened. More recently, many have used a laser scanning tool to map the scene. But often, those measurements can take hours, during which lanes may need to be shut down or the road closed entirely, putting emergency responders and crash investigators in harm’s way near traffic whizzing past. Now, more police agencies are turning to drones, unmanned aerial vehicles, to do that work. Remote pilots send up the drones, which take high-resolution photos that are fed into a computer and run through software. That creates 3D models that piece everything together for investigators."
In a new report this week from the U.S. Department of Interior the Office of Aviation Services (OAS) announced a 25 percent reduction in drone incursions on wildfires as of last month. “Working closely together since 2015, the interagency community has created an effective public awareness campaign to educate the public about the dangers to firefighters and communities when civilian drones fly into wildfires,” said ADI Executive Director Jenny Rosenberg. The OAS has established notification protocols to ensure that sightings of drones near wildfires can easily be reported and thoroughly vetted once reported. The department has also established protocols to work with law enforcement to manage operators who continue to fly drones near wildfires.