Tropical Storm Harvey (or Hurricane Harvey, which rolls off the tongue better) hit us and it hit us hard. Many people were under prepared, if prepared at all, and the worst part is that it isn’t over.
Just Stating The Obvious: Tropical Storm Harvey Is A No Fly Zone (TFR)
From reading on-line, it’s clear, that even in the inclement weather, many drone operators are taking to the sky to document this “800 year storm” as it has been called. However, safety, for both the operators and those trying to help, has become a very real issue.
There are not many words to describe the massive spectrum of emotion around the impact of Hurricane Harvey. It’s something you have to see in order to truly absorb the engulfing crush of nature’s power, and once you do, the images stay with you. Many of the videos, still photos and accompanying sentiment regarding the disaster were and continue to be communicated via social media, traditional media and smartphones. However, the personal drone is occupying a particularly interesting part within the current situation, and once again, these emerging tech devices have met with controversy.
Unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, have provided visual access to the breadth of the hurricane devastation, that is until about this time yesterday. Although personal drones have been credited with being a major help during the rescue of individuals in dire situations associated with previous floods in other states, they can also be a direct hindrance in an already tense disaster situation.
The website of local television station KHOU in Houston was one of the first to report that personal drones were said to be getting the way of and posing an extreme risk to rescue pilots and crews. KHOU’s site reported that as a result, Temporary Flight Restrictions banning personal drone usage is now currently effect for some areas of Houston until further notice.
Even with the TFR (Temporary Flight Restriction) in place, many drones have flown and some are even still flying; many news organizations are choosing to publish the collected media, possibly encouraging the operators.
Organizations like Gizmodo:
Modern technology like social media and smartphone cameras now bring images of natural disasters to people around the world in an instant. And with this decade’s rise of drones, the bird’s eye view has become nearly as ubiquitous as any other.
We’ve collected some of the footage taken in the past couple of days in and around Houston. Some of it is taken by drone pros, while other footage clearly shows amateurs who are still learning to use their drones. But pro or not, each clip is an important document of this historic natural disaster.
Hurricane Harvey struck Texas this past weekend, making landfall early Saturday and leaving a path of utter devastation in its wake. For those of us unable to witness the storm’s impact firsthand, it can be difficult to fully understand how widespread and overwhelming the disaster truly is. Thanks to modern drone technology, hobbyist pilots have been able to document the aftermath in a way that simply wasn’t possible a decade ago, and it makes the destruction feel all the more real.
The videos are both interesting and heartbreaking. There are flooded neighborhoods and highways, businesses that look like they’ve been transplanted from a war zone, and citizens doing their best to navigate waterlogged streets without getting stranded.
even Time, Inc., has decided to participate:
Drones captured breathtaking images of the devastating floods caused by Hurricane Harvey in Houston, where more than 20 inches of rain have fallen between Aug. 24 and Aug. 28.
Aerial footage provides a stark contrast between Houston highways in June of this year, when sunshine beamed down on clear roads, and the drowned roadways shown on Aug. 28. Tropical Storm Harvey continues to batter the area with rain and flooding, and is expected to drop buckets of water on southeastern Texas until Wednesday. The storm is expected to also impact parts of Louisiana.
Is it right to publish these images and movies? On some level, the media has an obligation to report what’s happening and they aren’t actually collecting the photos and videos firsthand, however, it has to be watched and balanced.
While detrimental during the rescue effort, there is a place for drones in the relief effort, post-hurricane. Drones will be a useful and cost-effective tool for insurance companies as they start to survey the wide spread damage, and the need for licensed commercial drone operators will even be greater.
Right now, the Federal Aviation Administration has imposed a ban on drones flying over Houston, which is still weathering what some climatologists are calling the worst storm in U.S. history. But once the rains and the winds die down, that ban will be lifted, and hundreds of flying robots will ascend above the city and region to assess Hurricane Harvey’s damage.
More than 2 million people live in Houston, and as many as 13 million live in the wider region affected by the storm. That means millions will probably get paid out by insurance companies. But this year, instead of relying on insurance adjusters with hardhats and clipboards to climb onto claimants’ roofs and decide what they are owed, insurance companies in many cases will use drones to inspect the aftermath.
Rebuilding after the storm will be an “all-hands on deck” effort, and in the world of today, that includes drones.