As Hurricane Dorian bears down on Florida, DJI is urging authorized pilots to begin preparations for post-storm operations.
For regular DJI pilots, the manufacturer has asked that all FAA guidance is followed, including the requirement to ground aircraft during rescue and recovery operations.
As always in the case of emergency efforts, it’s important to ensure the technology is used appropriately at a vital time and that drone pilots don’t accidentally disrupt first responders.
“First responders and utility companies today rely on drones to help people during emergencies, and DJI expects our products will play a critical – even lifesaving – role in responding to this looming disaster,” said Mario Rebello, DJI Vice President and North America Regional Manager.
“We want to make sure authorized drones can do their jobs safely and effectively in the days ahead, and that other drones stay out of rescuers’ way.”
Drones can make a positive difference in the aftermath of a hurricane
Drones were first used for post-hurricane assessments and emergency missions after Hurricane Harvey struck Houston in 2017. In 2018, the North Carolina Department of Transportation flew more than 260 missions in response to Hurricane Florence.
Hurricane Dorian is projected to hit central Florida on the morning of Monday, Sept 2.
In the aftermath, drones are expected to play an important role in operations ranging from search and rescue to damage surveys. Those harnessing the technology will include public safety agencies, media companies and utility companies.
DJI is urging all drone users with FAA authorization to fly to prepare now. The post-storm environment is likely to be chaotic, and there’s also a high chance there will be disruption to electricity and internet connectivity.
DJI has already unlocked geofencing restrictions for drones operated by Florida Power & Light Company, which serves more than 10 million people across the state of Florida, and is working with other utilities which may be called in to assist recovery efforts. DJI is also working with Florida emergency management agencies and with DJI Enterprise dealers who serve first responders to quickly unlock geofencing for public safety drones in Florida.
Preparing for connectivity issues
Because of likely connectivity issues, DJI pilots should ensure they have updated to the latest versions of firmware for their drones, batteries and remote controllers.
Firmware downloads are available on the pages for each drone model at dji.com, and software and app downloads are available at dji.com/downloads.
Unlocking geofenced areas requires an internet connection. So operators who may need to fly in sensitive areas should act to unlock those geofences as soon as possible. Those who should take action now include:
• Public safety agencies in DJI’s Qualified Entities Program should already have geofencing unlocked.
• Other government agencies, as well as private operators with authorized missions, can apply to unlock geofencing at dji.com/flysafe/custom-unlock.
DJI says it will prioritize requests from government agencies. The manufacturer is urging all applicants to make sure all required documentation is complete and explicit to speed up processing times.
For recreational pilots considering taking off in the aftermath of the storm, DJI has this to say:
Drone owners who do not have FAA authorization to fly as part of Hurricane Dorian response and recovery should not fly in the aftermath of the storm. Airspace in affected areas will be crowded with low-flying helicopters and airplanes flying unusual patterns, temporary flight restrictions may be applied with little notice, and drone pilots who interfere with emergency response could face fines as high as $20,000.”