5 ways drones play ‘saviour’ in disaster preparedness

The Covid-19 pandemic has put focus on the need for disaster preparedness at a local, national and global level. Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) is a key factor of disaster management. Here, drones/Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) play a pivotal role as enablers, enforcers and saviours.

In recent times, conversations around Coronavirus have consumed us. It’s easy to forget that the world is still prone to risk-heavy hazards and potential/impending disasters. We still have forest fires, floods, cyclones, tsunamis, earthquakes, draughts, landslides, etc.

Without dwelling on the past, let’s look at the present and the future.

We have learnt the importance of disaster preparedness during this pandemic. Let’s keep this knowledge alive and evolving to better equip us for future disasters.

The 5 ‘R’s of Disaster Management

 Disaster management can be envisioned in these 5 ‘R’s

  • Risk reduction is a continuous factor of disaster management. India is one of the few countries to set-up a proper Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) initiative.
  • Reconnaissance is, again, an essential factor for DRR and disaster management. It gives the authorities the necessary situational awareness for efficient mitigation, response and relief.
  • Response is the critical part of DRR and disaster management. Here, response time could be how quickly and effectively does a team reduce the risk associated with a hazard (to ensure it doesn’t transform into a disaster). It also means how effectively a team handles the Search and Rescue (SAR), relief and rehabilitation.
  • Relief and Rehabilitation involve quick disaster impact assessments and fast on-ground response. This helps ensure a smooth recovery process for the people and the country.

Drones – Preventing hazards turning into disasters

 What is the difference between a hazard and a disaster? Hazards are potentially damaging events that ‘may’ cause loss, disruption or degradation. They can be natural or induced. Disasters are a calamity or mishap (natural or induced) that cause heavy losses.

What is the drone-impact for disaster preparedness? The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) conducts detailed hazard, vulnerability and risk analysis to support and improve the nation’s DRR. Drones help ensure timely surveillance, reconnaissance and situational awareness to enable proper disaster preparedness.

ideaForge has the sturdiest drones in terms of terrain, weather, situation and response readiness. They are lightweight and versatile. They are also consistently effective across weather patterns and altitudes.

This means that the drones are an ideal-booster, for not just the DRR, but also the pre-DRR.

Pre-DRR helps with mitigating factors or elements of a hazard that involves early detection and timely resolutions. Here, drones enable regular checks/balances with surveillance and attentiveness for credible disaster preparedness. Drone led DRR and pre-DRR, hence, helps avoid the transformation of hazards to disasters.

Top 5 Drone applications in Disaster Preparedness and Disaster Risk Reduction

If you skipped the 2 sub-headings above, it’s ok. You can always scroll up after these ‘Top 5 applications of drones for disaster preparedness’.

1.     Resource-multiplying with drones

A high-powered committee on disaster management categorized 33 types of disaster within the country. Different regions are prone to different disasters. 59% of India is prone to earthquakes, 76% of the coastline is prone to cyclones, 68% of the cultivable land is prone to drought, 8% of the country is prone to floods, etc.

The authorities keep a close watch on these areas to mitigate risk and prepare the areas for impending disasters. However, the extent of the coverage has created a distinct resource crunch in terms of personnel and equipment. If the authorities aren’t able to detect a risk within the ideal ‘action time-frame’, it would eventually lead to irreversible damage.

Drones can cut through this ‘crunch’ and multiply the reach and abilities of the resources. The drones are 25x more efficient in terms of reach and coverage (as compared to manual surveillance). The drones can get 16x more area under surveillance at 3x higher surveillance speed.

This helps optimize the ‘action time-frame’ for effective risk-mitigation.

2.     Change detection – forest cover, riverbanks, soil structure, construction

One of the key aspects of surveying, mapping and surveillance in disaster preparedness is immediate change detection. ideaForge drones are highly adaptable across a wide-range of payloads. Equipped with high-res and live visual/thermal imaging, these drones enable instant change detection across diverse situations and terrain.

Drone-led surveying, mapping and surveillance digitizes and automates historical referencing for forest, watershed and environment management (to name a few). This helps them detect even the slightest of anomalies in quick time.

With drones, the surveyors can detect shrinking forest cover, shifting riverbanks, unplanned construction, etc. This arms the authorities with actionable evidence to intervene and correct any damage.

Drones also act as first-respondents to mitigate immediate risk-escalations. Regular drone-surveillance across the coastline can help immediately detect oil-spills. Similarly, fire fighters can investigate forest fire flare-ups to create a clear plan of action to contain the fire before it becomes a disaster. There are many such examples where drone-surveillance can spot anomalies to trigger pre-emptive on-ground action.

3.     Risk profiling – Hazards or potential disasters

Risk profiling is a continuous and evolving facet of disaster management. It’s much more than mere change detection. The authorities are always tracking disaster-prone areas in order to get ahead of all hazards.

Drones-led survey and mapping help create a 3D Digital Elevation Model (DEM) or contour profile. These 3D models help assess the hazards and their associated risks. For example, the authorities can track the change in construction patterns around hilly regions to find out which blocks (if any) have high landslide risks.

ideaForge has worked closely with the National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) to assess the risk-profiles of different regions prone to disasters. From Karnataka to Uttarakhand, and from Orissa to Maharashtra, these drones have been a key disaster-preparedness partner for the authorities.

4.     City/district/village development planning

City or village development planning is always forward-facing. It’s essential to tie-in all these city planning projects with the necessary disaster management realities. Drone-led surveying, mapping, surveillance and historical referencing helps the authorities bring in a balance within city planning and their environmental impact.

Authorities can use drone-led terrain mapping as a deciding point for industrial and mining clearances. This also goes for residential or commercial construction projects. This would help the authorities manage forest cover, reduce pollution, avoid soil erosion, manage watersheds, etc.

5.     Crowd control and information dispersal

We saw different stages of disaster preparedness and the relevant drone-applications, right from pre-emptive risk mitigation to on-site situational awareness. Drones add another dimension to disaster preparedness with live situational handling.

In recent times, with the Covid-19 lockdown, we have seen the need for instant information dispersal and crowd control within disaster risk mitigation. Police and municipal corporations across states used ideaForge’s megaphone drones. These drones, with on-board megaphone, directed people to practice social distancing and disperse (when required). They also helped spread accurate information, instantly, in containment zones.

Such crowd control and information dispersal is an ever-present pressure point for emergency response teams. Drones help quickly survey the site, providing live situational awareness. These drones can then help manage the crowds, directing them to the exits (in an orderly manner).

Proper information control and dispersal can be the difference between a well-handle situation and a panicked stampede. Drone-led crowd control helps reduce any misinformation or panic, in turn reducing the risk of stampedes and confusion.

Drones help create, execute and improve local and national disaster preparedness plans – that evolve over time. As they say, a stitch in time saves nine. In the same manner, a drone at the right time, keeps a country prepared and fine.


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