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Drones help emergency management teams assess disaster damage

Published: Jul. 27, 2018 at 6:20 PM EDT
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It can be difficult for emergency crews to determine the extent of flooding, particularly in rural areas.

But if you're in Levy County and experiencing flooding, emergency management teams might send a drone to see how bad the damage actually is.

The program got off the ground in March and is currently being used to map high-risk areas of Levy County.

David Peaton, Levy County's Assistant Director of Emergency Management said: "We're doing pictures of areas before a disaster so we can compare that too after a disaster. We're training how to use this drone after a disaster with damage assessments."

This July nearly twice the average amount of rain has fallen in Levy County even temporarily shutting down 3 parks, leading to another use for these drones.

Peaton explained, "For situations like now where we have flooded areas, in the past, you'd have to pay for someone to actually fly helicopter missions over these flooded areas to get aerial videos. That could cost thousands of dollars and now with this drone program all it takes is our time."

These pictures help emergency management teams to know just how bad an area has been hit said Peaton, without having to put personnel in dangerous flooded areas.

"How far is that road flooded is it only 500 feet is it a half mile has the water torn through the road in certain areas where it's actually flowing or is it standing still."

TV20's Landon Harrar reported, "Now the drones aren't just being used to map flooded areas they, in fact, have many other uses including environmental ones some that have to deal with wildlife."

Peaton told gave an example of this happening. "We had this birds nest at the top of one of our old communications towers, our public safety department determined we had to tear it down but saw there was a birds nest on top of it. Well, we wanted to make sure there are no active eggs in it, it's no longer being used so instead of paying someone hundreds if not thousands of dollars to climb this tower lets just fly the drone up there and check the nest out."

The nest was empty and the tower came down.

The idea for the Levy County drone program came from how emergency management teams in Alachua County used aerial drone footage as a tool during the Richard Spencer events.

David Peaton is a licensed drone pilot with the FAA.