drone software (6)

The ongoing pandemic (COVID-19) has taught us many things. Among those lessons is the realization that drones can be used for operations to save people’s lives.

Even before the pandemic, at AirWorks 2019, DJI announced that drones saved the lives of 279 people around the world. The number probably represents a small fraction of documented cases where drones were used as a means for public safety. For example, during the lockdown that followed after the onset of COVID-19, drones helped Indian authorities to contain the spread of the virus by monitoring the streets for unlawful gathering. Read the full case study.

We have just scratched the surface when it comes to commercial drone usage - drones have tremendous potential in disaster management alone.

In a report from the United Nations, it has been stated that 1.2 million lives were lost, 1.7 trillion dollars of damage was done and 2.9 billion people were affected due to global disasters that occurred between 2002 and 2012. With economic and human losses of this magnitude, every new technology that promises to save lives has a huge potential, including drone technology.

What Problems do Drones Solve During a Disaster Response?

There are several pre-existing protocols that are supposed to be followed during disaster response. Most of them have been successful so far, but they create their own set of challenges. The main one is the response time, which is of great importance during disaster management. The second one is logistical support.

For example, in 2015, an earthquake of magnitude 7.8 devastated the Kathmandu region of Nepal, which claimed the lives of 9000 people. All means of transportation were destroyed which drastically affected the disaster response and relief work. Many people, trapped under the rubble, lost their lives since help didn’t reach them on time.

When the Nepali government appealed for assistance to the international community, help arrived in the form of medical support, food, and relief equipment. Several international agencies came and deployed drones to help better assess the situation and to aid the search and rescue process.

Drones were also used during the 2013 typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. They were mainly deployed to survey the impact of the storm on farmlands and ascertain future risks from similar storms.

Drones help improve the response time, since they can be deployed much faster, as compared to traditional vehicles like a helicopter. Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) drones can cover large distances and assess the situation in an event where all transportation routes have been destroyed or made inaccessible.

Drone Benefits During Disaster Response

The process of disaster management can be broken down into the following stages:

  • Prevention
  • Preparation
  • Reponse
  • Recovery

Using drones for disaster response can add value to all of the above-mentioned stages according to a study from Zurich North America. The study highlights the correlation between a short response during the early phase of disaster recovery with increased success in search and rescue operations.

To better appreciate the benefits of using drones, consider the following:

  • Drones can ensure the safety of people. During the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster 2011, drones were used to survey the extent of the disaster without risking the lives of the relief workers.
  • Drones are quite effective as first responders since they can be deployed fast and easily, as compared to manned aerial vehicles.
  • Drones are relatively inexpensive, and with the help of a drone fleet management system, can be deployed in large numbers as autonomous fleets.

Drone Applications for Supporting Disaster Response

Drones are a versatile tool, to be used in various ways, as a critical aid in disaster response.

  • Drones have long been in use for aerial mapping and surveys. The same application can be easily extended to disaster response. For example, drones were used during the landslide of Oso, Washington in 2014 to map the region after the incident.
  • It often happens during an earthquake that a partially damaged building or a civic structure requires a thorough inspection before it can be deemed safe for humans to go there. Drones equipped with sensors like infrared (IR) cameras can do the job safely.
  • Drones can be used for medical delivery. A US-based company called Matternet did its first field trial of medical delivery using drones to camps set up after the 2010 Haiti earthquake.
  • Drones can be used for search and rescue operations. In 2005, fixed-wing drones were used to search for survivors after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in Mississippi.

How FlytNow Enables Drones for Disaster Relief

Drones are not just a piece of hardware; they are usually paired with intelligent software to make them truly effective. In a disaster situation of a large magnitude, having multiple drones can be advantageous, but managing a swarm of drones is not easy. FlytNow, with its cloud-based software solution, solves the problem of simultaneously controlling and managing a large number of drones.

In brief, FlytNow works as a cloud application that provides a unified dashboard to manage drones connected to the system. When a request comes for deploying a drone, an emergency response operator can use the advanced mission planner to create a flight path for the drone and initiate the launch. Once in the air, the drone flies with full autonomy as per the mission plan. Below is an illustration of how a drone public safety operation might operate:

drones for public safety

FlytNow is available in two versions, FlytNow Business and Enterprise; the latter offers a host of customization options.

FlytNow Business

This is a standard offering that provides usability out of the box. The offering comes with features specifically designed for disaster response and public safety operations. Here are some of those features and how they benefit disaster relief operations:

  • The ability to control drones over 4G/LTE/5G networks. By combining this feature with VTOL drones, a disaster response team can fly drones for long distances, and conduct surveys and mapping of an affected area.
  • Role-based access to the system. Disaster response teams are multi-faceted and not all require the same level of access to the drones. A relief worker on the ground might require only video access compared to someone who is required to assess the entire situation for planning logistics.
  • A mixed fleet of drones. FlytNow is a hardware-agnostic platform i.e. it supports both off-the-shelf and custom drones based on PX4 and Ardupilot. In a disaster situation, different types of drones might be required. For example, delivery drones are heavy and can carry large packages. Whereas, drones meant for surveys are smaller in size and may even have fixed wings for long-distance flight.
  • Live video streaming and sharing. Video feeds from a swarm of drones flying over a disaster affected area can be streamed onto a single unified dashboard, which is ideal for command center operations.

FlytNow Enterprise

The Enterprise version includes FlytNow Business as well as customization and add-ons, for operations that need scalability and a high degree of automation. This edition includes an operating system, which is installed on a single-board computer (SBC) - the SBC is then attached to the flight controller of a drone. This configuration allows for add-ons and integration, some of them are as follows:

AI-based features:

  • Obstacle avoidance, also known as FlytCAS, allows a drone to fly over a complex environment. This feature is useful when a drone is flying over or near ruins which can throw unexpected obstacles.
  • Precision landing, also known as FlytDock, allows a drone to land precisely on a machine-generated visual tag. This feature can be used when a drone has to land on a specific location to make a delivery.
  • Object detection, also known as FlytAI, allows a drone to detect objects from its video feed. This feature can be used to detect moving objects or humans on the ground during a search and resume operation.

Support for third-party integrations: The FlytNow application supports integration with third-party applications. During a disaster scenario, it is important to accurately log the drone flights and to make sure the drones don’t interfere with other aircraft. There are service providers like DronelogBook for flight data recording and Airdata for airspace intelligence, which can be integrated with FlytNow easily.

Advanced geofence: For the safety of the drones and compliance with airspace norms, it is necessary to restrict the area of operation during any relief work. FlytNow supports polygon geofences for operators to work on complex geography.

Integration with ground-based hardware: FlytNow has native support for ground-based hardware like charging pads and Drone-in-a-Box systems. By using such hardware, a first-responder system can be set up where the launch and docking of a drone are fully automated. When disaster strikes, such systems can be activated for faster response and expedite the overall relief process.

Some Instances of FlytNow in Use

During the recent lockdown for COVID-19, India's first drone command center was established in Ahmedabad, by Dronelab, using FlytNow, which allowed local drone pilots to launch coordinated operations to monitor the streets for unlawful gathering.

One of our partners in Belgium, DR ONE, is using FlytNow for airport asset monitoring.

History was created in the city of Lillestrøm, Norway, when Droneverkstedet, one of our partners, conducted the very first remote drone construction site inspection using FlytNow over a 5G network.


In this blog, we discussed the usability of drones in disaster response and the problems they help solve. Then we reviewed the benefits of using drones for use cases in disaster situations. Finally, we ended on the note of how the FlytNow drone fleet management system enables disaster management teams to quickly deploy and manage drones for disaster relief.

Leverage the power of FlytNow to conduct remote public safety operations with capabilities of automation and AI. To experience FlytNow, sign up for our free trial for 28 days using this link: https://flytnow.com/pricing/

If you are interested in partnering with us, please visit https://flytnow.com/partner/.

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 Drone as a technology has come a long way, especially when it comes to adoption by state and local government agencies, and public safety officials. In the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, drones have proven to be quite an effective tool in the fight against COVID-19; especially in countries like China and India

We are witnessing a widespread adoption of drones across different use cases, and public safety is one such application that has yielded significant social and public health benefits. One such example is how drones saved the lives of 279 people, as shared by DJI at AirWorks2019. The total global number is, of course, orders of magnitude more, given the increasingly common use of drones for disaster monitoring, emergency response, search-and-rescue, etc. 

In the US, law enforcement agencies are rapidly adopting UAV technology for the following reasons:

  • Drones provide better accessibility to places that are dangerous for humans. 
  • Drones are ideal for capturing video evidence in the form of aerial footage, thus freeing up valuable manpower that can be deployed elsewhere. 
  • Drones are an effective tool in search and rescue operations since they can cover large swathes of land in relatively less time. 
  • Drones can provide real-time situational awareness in delicate incidents such as hostage situations.
  • Armed with different payloads and sensors, drones can keep an eye on groups of people involved in suspicious activities.

In a study conducted by Bard College, they concluded that 910 state and local law enforcement agencies across the USA have incorporated drones as part of their operations. It is safe to say that drones will play a growing role in public safety and emergency response.


Why Drones are the Perfect First Responders

Drones as first responders refer to the deployments of drone fleets that reach the site of emergency first, even before human responders. Drones are turning out to be perfect first responders for the following reasons:

  • They are fast, agile, and nimble and can reach a location quickly. By doing so they can provide critical, real-time support. Researchers at Tu Delft have come up with the concept of a drone ambulance where a drone carrying an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) can fly to a person suffering from a cardiac arrest and provide time-critical medical support.  
  • Drones can aid human responders by going to an emergency situation first, assessing it, and sending information back, and based on which human responders can better prepare for the situation.

Understanding a Drone-based First Response System

A drone-based first responder system could be a standalone local system, or work as part of a bigger nationwide network. In either case, such a system would require the optimal combination of hardware and software, so that it can operate in an intelligent, reliable, and scalable manner. The below illustration provides an overview of such a system.

There are several components of such a system; the key ones are listed below:


This primarily means drones that can be bought off-the-shelf or those that can be custom-built for specific purposes. Below are some specific drone models suitable for such operations:

Fleet Management Software


At the heart of a drone-based first response system is a cloud-connected solution like FlytNow, for the following reasons:

  • First-responder applications require the management of a fleet of drones.
  • Public safety use-cases may require autonomous drone flights in order to minimize the reliance on human pilots. 
  • Emergencies may happen in remote areas and hence require beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS) capabilities.
  • Being an aircraft, each drone must respect airspace management rules and regulations so that there is no conflict with manned aircraft or other aerial vehicles.

Such capabilities are available in FlytNow, a robust drone automation platform that supports drone fleet management, BVLOS operations, and third-party integration with UTM service providers for airspace intelligence. FlytBase customers are already using FlytNow to power their first responder systems.  

A Texas, US company called Phirst Technologies has developed a solution called First iZ using FlytNow to deploy a fleet of drones via the computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system that powers the 911 emergency services in the US. The system works by allowing a 911 operator to dispatch drones from a unified dashboard to gather situational awareness on an emergency situation, and thus assisting human responders before and after they arrive.


Onboard Software


This refers to the operating software that goes into a companion computer which is then integrated with the flight controller of a drone. The software acts as the brain and keeps the drone connected with the fleet management system at the base station. 

FlytNow Business/Enterprise comes with its own ‘edge level’ software (FlytOS) that provides the following capabilities:

  • BVLOS or EVLOS operations over 4G/LTE/5G networks.
  • Precision landing and hover features that can be used to land a drone on a charging pad (see FlytDock).
  • Collision avoidance, a critical feature in BVLOS flights (see FlytCAS).
  • Remote control of payload attachments and camera gimbal.

Drone-in-a-Box (DiaB) Hardware


A ‘drones as the first responder’ system requires the support of ground-based hardware like charging pads, launch systems, etc. The hardware is required to automate the launch of a drone and putting a drone to charging mode when it returns from a mission. FlytNow offers integration with third-party DiaB hardware from some of the following solution providers:


The integration capabilities of FlytNow combined with smart automation has enabled Phirst Technologies to deliver a public safety solution using drones (First iZ). One of the unique capabilities of the First iZ system is that it can send a drone to a location and capture the required data autonomously; this wouldn’t be possible without FlytNow’s support for ground-based hardware.


Airspace Intelligence


BVLOS flights in remote, rural areas must be enabled by a first responder system. When conducting BVLOS drone flights, it is important that they don’t interfere with manned-aircrafts or break static, as well as dynamic, airspace norms. Such airspace intelligence is usually available from UTM service providers, whose solutions can be seamlessly integrated into FlytNow so that operators can conduct safe and legal flights. 

Note: Read about the partnership between FlytNow and Airmap.




Depending on the situation, drones require specific payloads to get the job done. For example, in a search and rescue mission, a drone may use an IR sensor to locate the missing person. Such payloads and sensors can be remotely controlled via FlytNow, including:

  • IR Sensor: Commonly known as a thermal camera that captures infrared radiation. 
  • Loudspeakers: Useful in making announcements and riot control.  
  • Spotlights: An important attachment for search and rescue.
  • Beacons: Such devices are used to make a drone visible from the ground in low light.

Advanced Failsafes

Despite rigorous flight tests, drones can sometimes fail from the sky, posing a threat not just to the drone but more so to the people and infrastructure below. This highlights the importance of fail-safes i.e. a set of actions to be automatically taken in the event of such an emergency. 

FlytNow offers out of the box failsafe features like RTH (Return to Home) and ELP (Emergency Landing Point).


How to Quickly Demo First Response System Using FlytNow Pro


FlytNow Pro is a lighter version in terms of features compared to our business and enterprise versions. But it is perfect for someone who is looking for a solution to quickly validate a first response system using drones. After a successful POC, he/she can upgrade to our business or enterprise version for the full-fledged implementation.


How to get started with FlytNow.


Step-1: As someone who is looking for a solution for a quick PoC. You need to first sign up for our 28 days free trial from https://app.flytnow.com/


Step-2: Once you are done with your account setup and email verification. Add your drones by following our Get Started guide. 

Step-3: This is an optional step. If you don’t have real drones then you can use our virtual drone. Your FlytBase free account comes with one free virtual drone that you can add by following this guide

Step-4:  A mission is a set of instructions that tells a drone where to go and how to go. In the context of a first response system, the feature can be used to tell a drone to visit a location and investigate why there’s an emergency. Go to the MISSION tab from the dashboard and click on Add Mission.


Give a name to your mission and click on Add Waypoint. By using the drop pins you can create a route to any location. While defining a route you can limit the speed and altitude. 

When creating a route, you can also define a finish action that tells a drone what to do when reaching a location. Currently, there are three options in the system:

  • Hover
  • Land
  • Return to Home

Step-5: Set up a geofence, which defines a drone’s area of operation. In FlytNow Pro, a geofence is a circular region within which a drone can fly. A first response system is more likely to function within a specific region and a geofence is a perfect feature to define that region. Follow this guide to create a geofence.

Note: A drone cannot fly beyond its defined geofence. In the enterprise version, polygon geofence is supported. 

Step-6:  Create Pre-flight Checklist items. FlytNow comes with a list of items that you have to check before executing a mission. The checklist serves to remind you of the important things that you have to keep in mind before sending a drone out for a mission.  You can add items to the checklist by going to the CHECKLIST tab -> Add to Checklist.


Step-7: Enable video live streaming. When a drone is out on a mission,  you can stream the live video from the drone and even share it via email. This feature is critical in the context of First Response because when a drone reaches a location, you can assess the situation from the live video feed sent by the drone. FlytNow also supports the streaming of video from multiple drones on a single dashboard. Refer to this guide to use video live streaming.

Initiating a First Response Mission


This is how you will demonstrate your system. Consider a situation, where you have received an emergency alert and you have to send a drone. To execute a drone flight you will follow the following steps:

Step-1: Create a mission for a drone so it can reach that location. 

Step-2: Select a drone and click on the launch button.


Step-3: Select the mission that you just created.


Step-4: The system will present you with a pre-flight checklist; mark all of them as complete and Execute the mission.


FlytNow Business/Enterprise - A Complete Solution for First Response System


The above demonstration gives a quick, cost-effective option to prove, conceptually, a first response system, using FlytNow. Once the PoC is successful, users can transition either to the business version or the enterprise version that provides additional features, such as: 

  • Team management & administration. 
  • Support for polygon geofence.
  • Precision landing so that drones can land on charging pads automatically. 
  • Localization of language based on a user’s region. 
  • Thermal camera integration. 
  • Supports DJI M2E payloads. 
  • Mission log.
  • Support for custom build drones based on PX4 and Ardupilot. 
  • Integration with third-party UTM services providers, for BVLOS and EVLOS flights. 
  • Support for thermal cameras and remote gimbal control for visual data in low light situations.

FlytNow business is an out-of-the-box solution for public safety operations. During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, Indian police officials in the state of Gujarat flew drones to monitor the streets of Ahmedabad (an Indian city) for unlawful gathering with support from a local startup (Dronelab). Dronelab worked with the government officials to establish a drone command center using FlytNow, which allowed public safety officials to centrally access the video feed of all the drones flying over the city. Drone pilots who wanted to volunteer used the FlytOS mobile app to connect his/her drone to the FlytNow dashboard that was being used at the command center. Read the complete case study

Both the versions include the support for our cloud connect kit that can be loaded in a companion computer, which in turn can be integrated with the flight controller of DJI enterprise drones and custom drones based on PX4 and Ardupilot. The companion computer coupled with our onboard software enables a drone to connect with FlytNow over 4G/LTE/5G networks. The enterprise version also provides support for DiaB (Drone in a box) hardware which generally includes a charging pad. A drone can land on a DiaB box using its precision landing feature.


What's Next?

Leverage the power of FlytNow to conduct remote public safety operations with capabilities of automation and AI. Get started by signing up FlytNow for free.

If you are interested in partnering with us, please visit https://flytnow.com/partner/.

Read more…
FlytBase, Inc. announces the launch of a Preferred Partner Program designed exclusively for drone system integrators, solution providers and drone hardware OEMs. With the mission of helping enterprises automate and scale their drone operations, FlytNow has successfully matured into a commercial-grade solution for managing remote, autonomous drone flights in real-time.
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