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Off Mission – Red Cross and UPS Testing Surveillance Drone at Disasters

September 9, 2017 Leave a comment

The American Red Cross, working with UPS, is testing a tethered CyPhy Works UAV in the wake of Harvey. This runs counter to their fundamental mission and principles.

The announcement states:

“The pilot program utilizes CyPhy Works’ Persistent Aerial Reconnaissance and Communications (PARC) platform. In this test the platform will provide constant power to a drone flying stationary at 400ft through the use of a tether. Since the drone is tied to the ground, constant power can be provided from a ground-based generator thus providing uninterrupted surveillance for days or weeks at a time.” It “… would be able to assess the impact of a disaster to best direct relief efforts and later to accelerate insurance payout.”

This raises all sorts of questions, such as:

  • Who will service the generator during a disaster to keep it aloft for weeks at a time?
  • How will they manage the terabytes of imagery?
  • Can’t this mission be addressed with a single 30 minute UAV flight that then is available for other missions?

But the most important one is:

Why does anyone other than law enforcement need “Persistent Aerial Reconnaissance” that can remain aloft for weeks at a disaster?

Quoting a friend of mine, ” this is really really bad optics for any ostensibly aid-based organization.” It is a classic, and sometimes fatal, error for aid organizations as we’ve painfully learned over the years.

One of the Fundamental Principles of The Red Cross is:

Neutrality

In order to continue to enjoy the confidence of all, the Red Cross may not take sides in hostilities or engage at any time in controversies of a political, racial, religious or ideological nature.

Deploying persistent surveillance assets over an area where the population is already traumatized runs counter to the Red Cross’ goal of earning confidence and to “… to prevent and alleviate human suffering.”

It also negatively affects all other humanitarian aid, disaster response, and damage assessment efforts. If one “official” drone is behaving in a manner that causes the public to suspect the intentions of the operator then all drones are considered equally suspect. ARC and UPS are putting all legitimate UAV disaster response operations at risk.

I wonder if the deployment was fully vetted by the Red Cross legal and public affairs teams prior to launching.

 

 

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Categories: Emergency Response, UAVs

Guidance to UAV Operators Responding to Florida

September 9, 2017 Leave a comment

[I am the Public Information Officer for National Council on Public Safety UAS. This post is written in that role. We will stand up an official location for future announcements.]

The Director, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Program, FSU, working in conjunction with local, state, and Federal agencies, requests that all volunteer UAS operators respect the following:

Volunteer/humanitarian aid/emergency response operators:

  1. Do not self-deploy during response/life-safety, it’s dangerous.
  2. Register on volunteerflorida.org.
  3. When the State gets to recovery, we will need help. Registered volunteers should report to a Volunteer Reception Center for vetting and assignment.
  4. Be prepared to be self sufficient. Do not assume that food, shelter, water, transportation, power, medical support, and fuel will be available to support your activities

Commercial operators:

  • All commercial operators working for utilities, insurance companies, etc should comply with their Part 107 restrictions.
  • Please coordinate operations through local and state EOCs if flying during response phase.

Official agencies:

  • Official agencies should contact the FAA Systems Operations Support Center (SOSC) at 202-267-8276 and request an Emergency COA or SGI. This authorization will permit operations inside any posted TFRs or within controlled airspace.

 

All operators in Florida should utilize Airmap (including registering of flights) for maximum visibility. Emergency Management is using Airmap to help deconflict air operations.

Other guidance:

  • Low flying aircraft will be an issue. 
  • Monitor FAA and other resources for new or changing TFRs.
  • Follow the eCOA process when working with a sponsoring agency or private sector partner. 
  • Be patient with the SOSC as they will get bombarded with requests