A Drone's View of the Colorado Floods

The recent Colorado floods are giving us a great look at how useful UAVs will be in disaster recovery and photography in the future.

While FEMA may have grounded Falcon UAV's aerial survey mission of the flooding around Boulder and Lyons, causing quite a buzz in the media, that hasn't prevented other local drone pilots and hobbyist FPVers from capturing some amazing aerial footage of the disaster. ABC News ran a report yesterday showing footage from a multicopter flying over

swollen rivers and flooded streets in one town affected by the flooding.

Meanwhile, local hobbyist FPVers have managed to capture some stunning footage of the flooding on the eastern plains in Weld County. The following videos and the video at the top of this post were filmed on Friday, September 13 during the height of the flooding, and are courtesy of YouTube user Neutography.



These videos were captured with a small FPV Slowstick fixed-wing RC plane. The flights to capture the footage were described in this post on RCGroups:

For Our side of the story: we flew on friday the 13th at I-25 / SH66 / 119/ and county road 20 1/2, me i was way nervous perty much the whole time because there was ALOT of air traffic even though more than half were news copters and Sightseer's ( not sayin there's anything wrong with that).
Kept it low and always had spotters as well as a good ears listening/watching out.
The main reason for my video's is that i wanted to see what everything looked like from the air, not selling or promoting sales, I'm sure one of these days FPV copters/planes will come in to there own for search/rescue/damage assesment type operations, kinda dread it at the same time because the "Regulations" usually fallow such things.

Since I live in southeast Denver, I've considered capturing some aerial video of the floods myself, but haven't so far mainly because of lack of time and worry about interfering with rescue aircraft. Still, I'm glad some other local FPVers were able to film this event, and I think it illustrates how useful SUAS will be in the future for filming natural disasters and assisting in relief efforts.

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  • Great blog! I Plan on an encore flyover this fall on or about the same date to get aerial of changes to the area.

    The "feel" of the web about natural disasters and "drone flyovers" is not promising.

  • Has anyone created a map layer of aerial rasters yet?  I haven't used any open source tools or http://dronemapper.com/ yet.

  • I know it's easy to beat up on public entities like FEMA, and often for good reason, they're not that great at what they do.  However, I feel like they're using an older approach of "too much help is not a good thing" for this drone issue and if we can bring them into the light they'll stop hindering progress.  

  • FEMA doesnt realize that State of Emergency does not equal Martial Law.

  • we received a call from our 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.

    I would have gotten FEMA on the phone and played this clip, and then mapped the town.



    FEMA has long track record of not know what its allowed to do. In Katrina FEMA thought it had the power to suspend the constitutional right of the people to bear arms with out first amending the constitution of the United States Of America. ROFL

  • not sure what they could arrest you on especially if you are doing it for hobby purposes..  plus eyes in the sky that don't interfere with support operations could save a life or more...  The only thing I think they could possibly get you on would be the interference part and endangering rescue operations.

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