A few days ago we shared the Boulder, Colorado crisis response map with you, as the area is continuing to be inundated with rain and flooding. As they continue to fight the water, another interesting battle is emerging: Falcon UAV against the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Falcon has a hand-launched drone aircraft that can fly for roughly an hour and automatically generate very accurate maps of the ground. Here is a quick video showing how the drone is launched:
As for the results, you can see a snippet of their work in Colorado below or download the KMZ file here (warning: 500MB) to see it in Google Earth. It’s quite remarkable, especially considering the speed with which the imagery can be captured, georeferenced and shared.
Unfortunately, FEMA has told them they’re no longer allowed to fly the drone. In fact, they were told that their “request to fly drones was not only denied but more specifically we were told by FEMA that anyone flying drones would be arrested.”
As IEEE Spectrum is quick to point out, we’re only hearing one side of the story. FEMA may have a very legitimate reason for grounding the drone. However, considering all circumstances it seems that it would be quite valuable to have that aircraft capturing fresh imagery for the area.
I’m hoping that FEMA releases a statement of some sort about this issue, as it’s reflecting quite poorly on them so far. Check out the full article for yourself over on IEEE Spectrum.