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.
Google was given permission to provide overlays from a Monday night assessment of damage done by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). This overlay shows the areas FEMA has assessed so far for flooded areas, light damage to catastrophic damage in a graphical fashion. You can download the overlays here or read the Google Earth team’s post here.
NOTE: Google says you may need a more recent graphics card or at least more recent graphics drivers for this to work properly.