It was widely reported that the FAA was prohibiting civilian drone flights over areas ravaged by Hurricane Harvey. As they should have. However, there is a another story, several in fact, of how drone technology has not hindered; but has helped the area assess the damage and begin recovering from the devastation. In the days to come DroneLife will be telling some of those stories.
Critical to recovery is re-establishing key supply lines and infrastructure. One of those is communication and a key communication channel is wireless. Verizon reports that for the first time as part of their network operations in regard to Hurricane Harvey they began using drones to conduct cell site (tower) inspections to survey the damage caused by the storm to help expedite recovery. This was done in cooperation with Measure Inc. which owns and operates drones.
Yesterday and today they plan go to 10 cell sites/towers in Rockport, Fulton, Aransas Pass, and Port Aransas areas in Texas continuing to use drones in post-hurricane recovery efforts.
Last October, during Hurricane Matthew, we worked with Measure to use drones to do similar cell site inspections in North Carolina. Reviewing video from the drone, network engineers realized that one cell site had its equipment on stilts and was not damaged. They were able to send in a team via boat and refueled the generator, getting the site back online to serve customers within hours vs. days as the severe flooding makes it very difficult to conduct inspections on the ground.
The footage below courtesy of Verizon was taken from one of company’s locations in Rockport, TX, a very hard hit hit area. You see some flooding, and a lot of destruction on the ground. At the end of the footage, please note the antennas on the cell site are damaged courtesy of Harvey.