The UPS Foundation, the charitable arm of UPS Inc., has joined with the American Red Cross and drone manufacturer CyPhy Works Inc. to test a tethered drone that will survey the devastation in Texas and Louisiana caused by Hurricane Harvey, the first time that the relief agency will use such equipment to assess damage after a major natural disaster.
The one-week pilot, which starts this Tuesday in Houston, will be used in an unspecified part of the city badly affected by flooding from Harvey's massive rainfall. The program will evaluate CyPhy Works' "Persistent Aerial Reconnaissance and Communications," or PARC, system for its effectiveness in supporting ground-based response teams, said UPS, Danvers, Mass.-based CyPhy, and the American Red Cross in a joint statement.
The drone, which will be tethered to a base unit and powered by a generator, will elevate up to 400 feet to provide visibility over tens of miles. Unlike battery-operated drones that need to be pulled down to be re-charged, a tethered drone can deliver continuous coverage from a disaster site for days or weeks at a time.
High-resolution recognition tools and online comparison with previous imagery may help identify those areas that have sustained the most damage, and allow the extent of damages to be determined with greater speed, according to the companies and the Red Cross. The UPS Foundation will underwrite the total cost of the pilot program, Atlanta-based UPS said.
"With such catastrophic injury and damage being caused by natural disasters, every minute counts. It's essential that public and private organizations work together to find new and innovative solutions to support and enhance recovery efforts after a natural disaster strikes," said Eduardo Martinez, president of The UPS Foundation, in a statement.