Human Side(s) of UAVs – Mission Tacloban

Dear friends,

Although only five months young, dronologista blog has grown and needs a new attire.

As of 1st of September, moves to a new hosting, new address and slightly changes the appearance . Content will remain the same, and dronologista will continue to provide information about non-military drones only.


Whilst using the benefits of googlism phenomena, I found a remarkable piece of information which is perfectly suitable for today’s topic. It addresses the importance of quick and coordinated action after natural disasters strike (earthquakes, tsunamy, typhoons etc.), and the role UAVs in such circumstances.

The city of Tacloban, Phillipines, most probably would have never been mentioned in world’s news if it wasn’t unlucky to be in the epicenter of the typhoon Haiyan last November. Consequences were apocalyptic: destroyed houses, bridges, infrastructure and thousands of casualties and number of displaced that was measured in hundreds of thousands. Every communication channel was disrupted and those who were lucky enough to survive were facing even bigger challenges now: to be located and provided with immediate aid.

Biggest problems of aid organization, were: access to the affected areas and setting the priority lists. This is where today’s hero came up making this story less dramatic: danish product Huginn X1. This drone, specifically developed for emergency management activities, was able to hover in strong winds, rain and dust and still provide valuable imagery to the relief workers. According to manufacturer specification Huginn X1 uses advanced technologies including GPS, live video streaming and FLIR thermal camera.


Huginn X1

Huginn X1

According to Andrew Schroeder from Direct Relief, Huginn X1 was useful in scouting the surrounding terrain in order to find out most suitable and convenient supply routes. On the other side personnel of UNDAC stated that they can not even imagine very first response action without UAS.

Huginn X1 in action

Huginn X1 in action

However several critical points could be listed when it comes to the events like this:

  1. Immediate assessment – The first few hours after disasters are the most crucial moments for disaster response. But poor assessment of the affected areas can significantly reduce the effectiveness of these operations and even endanger aid workers. Drones can be deployed for immediate assessment of disaster situations, providing detailed information to first-responders like local governments and humanitarian groups. Information is key to disaster response and mobilization.
  2. Strategic planning – Following the initial assessment phase, the information gathered will prove helpful in crafting an effective strategic plan in responding to disasters. Scores of international aid groups and partner governments have continually extended their help to the country given the scale of devastation Haiyan brought — including the information gathered by the drones in the plans will make relief and response operations more effective.
  3. S&R operations – The Huginn X1 drone is equipped with high-definition video and is capable of providing a live feed for the controller, making assessment and response real-time. The device can also produce thermal images, essential for finding people alive during the search and rescue operations. According to officials: “The first 72 hours of search and rescue after the disaster is very important. That’s the only time that you have a big chance to find people, living ones, and save them“
  4. Protecting aid workers – Given serious problems with transport, drones enabled mapping, without actually sending people out, which allowed for regular information loops on damage, needs estimation and movement of teams out the affected areas. In the early movements, there were a number of concerns over possible security situations which might put aid workers at risk. The drones helped essentially maintain watch over ongoing aid operations, which improved visibility into possible security situations.

Anyhow, the fact that a drone has been dispatched in order to facilitate aid distribution after catastrophic event that Philippines faced, should make even the biggest UAV skeptic reassess his or her standpoint.


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