Unmanned Aircraft Systems for Emergency Management

Responding to disasters is a critical function for first responders and the emergency management community. The primary mission when responding to disasters is saving lives, which often requires the use of multiple resources. Rotary and fixed-winged aircraft have traditionally performed disaster response missions, such as overhead damage assessments, reconnaissance, and missing person searches. However, with the advancement of unmanned aircraft systems (UASs), there is an opportunity to perform many conventional aerial missions in a safer, more expeditious, and cost effective manner.

In this Viewpoints video, Darren Price, Regional Operations Supervisor for the Ohio Emergency Management Agency, discusses his Master’s thesis, which explores the introduction of UASs for disaster response missions into the national airspace system of the United States. His thesis also includes a review of traditional disaster response missions and opportunities for the utilization of UASs; a comparison of UAS programs, both military and civilian, as well as international UAS programs; a review of barriers to implementation; offers policy and program considerations for agencies and jurisdictions to consider when implementing a UAS program; and recommends future research concerning the topic of autonomous UASs. Lastly, his thesis provides a decision guide to assist policy makers and practitioners with determining the need and feasibility of a UAS program.

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