Harvey Offers Preview of How Drones Could Be Used to Speed Up Rebuilding

As cleanup and rebuilding efforts ramp up in Houston and coastal areas damaged by Hurricane Harvey, drones are flying overhead and capturing images to help speed up the recovery. Companies are using drones to assess damage to homes, cell towers and railroads. For some, it's the first time they've sent drones into the skies after a natural disaster. The drones uses show how small unmanned aircraft systems are becoming a common resource for insurers, along with first responders.Drones have transformed from a fun gadget used by hobbyists into a useful tool used for agriculture, nonprofits and businesses. Software-enabled drones can hover over acres of farmland to monitor the health of crops. In some parts of Africa, they deliver blood transfusions, vaccinations and medicine. New vistasHurricane Harvey is one of the first major storms to hit the U.S. since the Federal Aviation Administration began to hand out commercial drone licenses about a year ago. As Harvey approached and in the days immediately following, the FAA put temporary flying restrictions in place in some badly damaged areas. It granted authorization to several dozen drone operators supporting response and recovery, from oil and gas companies to government agencies.Dallas-based AT&T moved drones and crews near the predicted path before the storm made landfall. The company used a fleet of 25 drones to inspect cell towers and wire lines in southeast Texas after the storm to identify wind and water damage and then deploy crews to fix it, said Art Penglar, AT&T's Unmanned Aircraft Systems Program Director.   Continue reading...

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