by Dan White
Imagine if a ScanEagle had been available during Katrina. It could permit the clever separation of Search from Rescue. It could be in the air early and look for stranded rooftop victims. Then larger passenger helicopters would not be risking lives and wasting fuel looking for people.
You could first fly the UAV to search for those most needing immediate evacuation, and then the rescue helicopters would fly straight to their next high priority victim.
It looks like FEMA or municipalities can contract with these organizations to put a team on the ground in 24 hours. This could be an ideal way to affordably have “eyes in the sky” available during an MCI or disaster.
The two big hurdles to wider domestic use of UAV’s are regulation, acceptance, and pilot training. The FAA is currently working out regulation to allow civilian use of UAV’s in the USA.
The next challenge is acceptance. Some states are already proposing regulations to ban UAV’s. In my state of Missouri they are concerned about surveillance and privacy, so they are trying to ban UAV’s, perhaps without a full appreciation for their potential value. Oregon is looking at doing the same thing.