An article in The Sacramento Bee touts the potential of drone technology in fighting back against California wildfires. "Drones are another tool to consider; with trained pilots, unmanned drones can operate in high temperatures, fly at night and in heavy smoke and get to the scene quicker than a fire engine. The Interior Department flew nearly 5,000 drone missions over public land last year to minimize danger to human lives. One drone model drops flammable spheres to set controlled fires to reduce the spread of a wildfire. Mark Bathrick, director of the department’s Office of Aviation Services, told The Wall Street Journal that drones in Oregon detected a fire before it was reported and responders extinguished the blaze before it became a threat. Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, told a congressional hearing that drones are a great tool in remote and rugged terrain. More than 910 U.S. law enforcement, fire and emergency agencies have acquired drones, including several in California."
An article in the New York Times overviews a drone damage survey of the Fuentidueña apse, which dates to the 12th century. "The drone survey will let Ms. Kargère compare the drone photographs to images taken in the 1990s. The drone made it easier to see into high-up crevices and peer at the figures on the corbels, the brackets just under the roofline. Sunny weather helped, too. The survey in the 1990s was done in late winter. 'Everyone was freezing,' Barbara Bridgers, the head of imaging for the Met, recalled. This time around, the drone was sitting in the cobblestone driveway behind the apse, not far from a tent that had been set up as Mission Control. 'It’s like you’re walking into a James Bond set,' one Met official said, looking at the paraphernalia — a laptop, a portable monitor and extra batteries for the drone and the camera. A fully charged battery keeps the drone flying for about 20 minutes."
An article in DroneDJ covered the Alliance for Drone Innovation's (ADI) statement on passage of the FAA Reauthorization Act. In addition to promotion of ADI's statement, the article highlights ADI's gratitude toward House and Senate lawmakers for working tirelessly to pass legislation that provides a long-term FAA reauthorization.
The Spokane Review touts the potential benefits of drones with respect to police investigations. "Olsen said the drones would be used for investigating crime and crash scenes through aerial mapping and could also be used to track down people who were missing or fleeing from law enforcement at night through thermal imaging. Drones could be used to search for people at difficult-to-access locations, such as along the Spokane River, or to monitor dangerous hostage situations or bomb incidents. Once the department purchases drones, they would be used by the SWAT team or investigation units, and in north and south Spokane. The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office has already purchased two drones and has been training with the devices for about a month, Spokane County Undersheriff Dave Ellis said. The drones, which are upgraded versions of what is commonly available on the market, are equipped with accident reconstruction and thermal imaging software."
Bloomberg reports that a fleet of drones is being deployed to identify and fix damage caused by Hurricane Florence. "With the remnants of Hurricane Florence continuing to deluge the southeastern U.S., a small army of drones is being deployed to identify and fix damage caused by flooding. At least 53 drone teams have been recruited to help with damage assessment, said Brian Reil, a spokesman for Edison Electric Institute, the Washington-based industry group coordinating utility recovery efforts. Each team usually brings more than one drone and the force collectively includes about 100 to 160 operators, he said. While the storm has weakened into a tropical depression, Florence continued to dump record rainfall while areas of North Carolina are experiencing unprecedented flooding. Hundreds of roads have been shut in the region, making it dangerous or difficult to access areas to restore power. 'Drones are being used in the communities where the wind and rain have died down,' Reil said in an email Monday. 'In many cases, crews are not able to gain access to the most heavily damaged and flooded areas until the storm clears and it is deemed safe for them to enter.'"
An article in Smithsonian Magazine notes that a Rice University project using drones' sensors and AI are being used to find and track harmful gases. "Not a week goes by, it seems, without more news of how drones are going to make our lives so much easier or what they can do now to entertain us. Most recently, there were reports of the flying devices delivering food to golfers on a course in North Dakota and being used as backup dancers at Drake’s shows. But far away from the back nine and concert stages, autonomous flying vehicles are doing serious business, from helping to save lives during hurricanes to lending aging farmers a hand. And, if a Rice University research project comes to fruition, a swarm of drones could one day work together to sense toxic gases in the atmosphere and map out a safe perimeter. Boosted by a recent $1.5 million National Science Foundation grant, the scientists, in collaboration with the Baylor College of Medicine and Technology For All, a Houston nonprofit, will focus on giving drones the intelligence to sniff out where dangerous pollution has spread following explosions or leaks, particularly after extreme weather events."
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.