NDPTC holds Unmanned Aircraft in Disaster Management Class in San Diego

The National Disaster Preparedness Training Center (NDPTC) is developing a course on unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in disaster management and held its second pilot course in San Diego, CA., on July 13th. UAS, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles or drones, are an emerging technology on the verge of revolutionizing disaster management.

The new course guides government agencies and others in emergency management through the steps to building a successful UAS program, including identifying when UAS would enhance a disaster mission; knowing which UAS vehicles and sensors are best for various situations; understanding the current FAA UAS regulations and related laws; understanding the importance of engaging the local community; ensuring that privacy issues, civil rights, and civil liberties are thoroughly addressed; and learning how to apply for FAA authorization.

This one-day, 8-hour course was held at the emergency operations center of San Diego Gas and Electric (SDGE), which is the first utility company in the U.S. to receive authorization from the FAA to use UAS. The course participants included people from fire departments, emergency management offices, universities, police departments, and others throughout California who were eager to learn how UAS might help their emergency operations. Class participants had many questions that lead to great discussions on how to move forward with designing a UAS program, how to successfully work with the FAA, how to best engage the local community and what pitfalls to avoid, how to incorporate UAS into their existing operations, and how to learn from some of the current positive and negative UAS stories in the news.

Small, unmanned aircraft can be essential tools for finding lost or trapped people using infrared sensors; for post-disaster damage assessment imagery of infrastructure, transportation, and buildings; for delivering critical items such as medicine to stranded people; for providing a temporary communications network when the primary system is damaged by a disaster; for ongoing infrastructure analysis as part of disaster mitigation; and for providing early storm warning public audio announcements via an onboard speaker system, among many other uses.

NDPTC plans to follow up the first UAS course with two other related courses to further help government agencies appropriately develop UAS program that enhance the mission of emergency management. The second course will help integrate UAS into the policies and procedures of disaster management agencies and will help create a framework for bringing UAS operations, mission planning, management, safety, and information flow into existing policies and procedures in disaster management and propose new policies and procedures to fully integrate UAS. The third course will equip people involved in disaster management with the basic tools of UAS imagery analysis, since imagery from UAS is useful in disaster management only if individuals know how to interpret the data and imagery and take actionable steps for decision-making.

Photo From left to right: Ted Ralston, subject matter expert for UAS course; Teena Deering, UAS course instructor and SDGE UAS pilot; and Jennifer Davidson, NDPTC program manager for UAS course, at SDGE’s emergency operations center for the NDPTC UAS course.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *