The PARC system can fly up to 400 feet and help survey damage more quickly
Helping hands are getting some wings.
The American Red Cross has teamed up with the UPS Foundation and drone maker CyPhy Works to pilot a drone program that will assess havoc wreaked by Hurricane Harvey. The tethered drone — the nonprofit’s first ever — will survey damage during a one-week test that “could serve as a future model for a rapid response team,” the groups said Thursday.
The test begins next week, according to Reuters, evaluating an area of Houston heavily affected by flooding. Harvey, later downgraded to a tropical storm, unleashed more than 50 inches of rain in some parts of Texas and claimed at least 70 lives — only to be followed by Irma, the deadly hurricane that thrashed the Caribbean this week and is now headed for Florida.
UPS, an investor in CyPhy that launched its own drone delivery tests last year, is funding the effort through its foundation. “The measure of success for the American Red Cross on this pilot will be to prove that drones can help support, complement and accelerate the work already being done by our tremendous volunteers,” Brad Kieserman, the Red Cross’ vice president of disaster services and logistics, said in a statement.
The partnership will test the effectiveness of a tethered drone technology called PARC — Persistent Aerial Reconnaissance and Communications — billed on CyPhy’s website as “easily portable, quick to assemble, extremely rugged, and resistant to wind, precipitation, and airborne debris” and “capable of flying in adverse weather conditions and high winds.”
PARC, which costs less than $70 an hour to operate and earlier this year helped the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency monitor the Boston Marathon, can travel up to the FAA’s legal limit of 400 feet and features long-distance 30X zoom — assets, UPS said, that will help identify water-damaged homes well before the floodwater dissipates. And since it’s tethered to a generator, it can cover the site for days or weeks on end without needing a recharge. Comparing the drone images to previous photos online could help speed up assessing areas and extent of damage.
“PARC will provide the first responders and recovery crews with a stable fixed-location point of observation to help capture these crucial images without interruption,” CyPhy CEO Lance Vanden Brooks said.
Rebuilding after Harvey’s more than week-long reign of terror may cost between $150 to $180 billion, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott projected on “Fox News Sunday.” The Senate on Thursday approved a measure allocating $15 billion in disaster aid.
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