22 Dec

Back in 2015, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal flattening innumerous homes, killing thousands of people and scrambling away the ones alive from access to basic amenities. Even the authorities were unable to assess the damage and deliver relief to survivors. But weeks after Nepal’s worst earthquake in 80 years, the skies above the Himalayan nation vibrated with military helicopters ferrying relief, aeroplanes bringing in aid workers, and drones assessing the severity of the situation.

The Drones also knows UAVs have often received mixed reactions based on their usage. Though their advantages such as providing safety, protection exceed their associations with the invasion of privacy, yet authorities are still sceptical about using them for relief purposes during earthquakes. 

Here is why the use of drones must be mandated during the earthquake relief process. 

Earthquakes destroy both the natural and man-made surroundings in a highly devastating manner that often makes conditions for relief workers difficult as they are unable to access areas and provide assistance. 

That’s where the Drones play a vital role!

Drones have the ability to reach areas that no human or manned vehicles can. Through its aerial image analysis method bagged by topographical mapping technique, the UAVs can easily capture and analyse the degree of damage caused in the affected area. 

The damage degree evaluation (DDE) of natural disasters can act as a piece of intuitionistic support information for the Disaster Rescue Departments giving them enough idea to carry out the rescue operations successfully.  

Besides its latest technologies, the low cost, durability, compact nature and fast response speed of the UAV provide it with a greater advantage over any other method of damage analysis.

Using the on site devastating images captured by drones, the local authorities of the affected areas can appeal for assistance from the central government. In this way, the supply of essential amenities such as medical equipment, ration, clean drinking water, plastic sheets etc will remain uninterrupted till the damage control is done. 

After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the International Organization for Migration since 2012 has been using drones to capture and analyse the damage caused.   

In Nepal, several agencies have started using them for search and rescue missions as well as to map out toppled monuments, ruined heritage sites and devastated homes.

“The beauty of drones is that they are cheap, easy to use and people can be taught to use them quickly, so there is no need for foreign aid workers to parachute into disaster zones,” 

- Faine Greenwood, Research Assistant on Drones, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative.

Though the Drones are currently being used to capture images and assess the damage caused they are also capable of doing more such as dropping supplies in hard-to-reach areas. Global Medic, a Canadian charity that provides disaster response in the form of medical assistance, uses drones to map out the worst affected zones. They believe that drones will vastly speed their work at a much lower cost.

The drones equipped with thermal cameras and high-powered zoom lenses can help find survivors by detecting body heat and can also show their faces, on-the-ground-detail from up to 1,000 feet away and every other detail required to rescue the survivor. While drones’ foray into aid especially during earthquakes seem relatively new — they were sparingly used in the aftermath of Haiti’s 2010 earthquake and the 2013 typhoon in the Philippines — the Nepal earthquake has seen more UAV activity than any other disaster, 

In the words of Grant Imahara, “Drones with their agility and small size seem perfect for search and rescue operations.

Drones overall will be more impactful than people recognize, hence their usage in carrying out rescue operations during the aftermath of an earthquake must be encouraged.

Read our article on The Drone Laws 2021

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