Interesting news from our friends at Falcon UAV in Colorado:
In the wake of the recent floods in Colorado, Falcon UAV has spent the last three days providing volunteer aerial services to the Boulder County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and the Incident Management Team (IMT). On Thursday afternoon while all National Guard aircraft were grounded due to weather Falcon UAV was proud to have been the only aircraft that was able to take flight to support the flood efforts in Lyons.
Friday saw a reprieve in the weather and we are able to get a perfect flight off in the town of Longmont to capture aerial imagery for damage assesment at the intersection of the overflowing St Vrain river and equally inundated Left Hand Creek. In less than an hour the imagery was processed and provided to the Boulder EOC. Just as Falcon UAV was off to another damage assessment in Lyons, Colorado we were requested to standdown for National Guard helicopters now supporting evacuation efforts.
Animated GIF from that Google Earth overlay shown below (click to see animation):
Early Saturday morning Falcon UAV was heading up to Lyons to complete a damage assessment mapping flight when we received a call from our Boulder EOC point of contact who notified us that FEMA had taken over operations and our request to fly drones was not only denied but more specifically we were told by FEMA that anyone flying drones would be arrested. Not being one to bow to federal bureaucrats we still went up to Lyons to do a site survey for how we can conduct a mission in the near future to provide an adequate damage assessment to this storm raveged community.
While we were up there we noticed that Civil Air Patrol and private aircraft were authorized to fly over the small town tucked into the base of Rockies. Unfortunately due to the high terrain around Lyons and large turn radius of manned aircraft they were flying well out of a useful visual range and didn't employ cameras or live video feed to support the recovery effort. Meanwhile we were grounded on the Lyons high school football field with two Falcons that could have mapped the entire town in less than 30 minutes with another few hours to process the data providing a near real time map of the entire town.
Falcon UAV would like to thank the Boulder County EOC and specifically Allen Bishop and Michael Chard (while they were running operations) for their common sense approach to drone operations, working to coordinate the airspace, as well as embracing this technology to help support the recovery effort. In contrast we are very disappointed in FEMAs response to actively prevent the use of UAVs and drone technology when these services were offered for free and at a time when manned helicopters could be used for more critical missions such as evacuations and high mountain search and rescues in inaccessible communities.
To our fellow Colordoans, we understand the recovery efforts are still ongoing and will be followed by a long period of damage assessment. If we can provide volunteer aerial video, photography, or mapping services to any of the affected communities please contact us directly at 303-903-4571.