Drones Surveying

Unmanned Aerial Systems Support Flood Management

image of NCDOT Using Unmanned Aerial Systems
NCDOT Using Unmanned Aerial Systems

The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) is pairing two Every Day Counts (EDC) innovations—weather-responsive management strategies and unmanned aerial systems (UAS)—to support its flood management efforts and make key decisions during disaster response.

From an article in Innovator newsletter.

NCDOT uses unmanned aerial systems  for a variety of applications, including strategic situational awareness of infrastructure conditions, survey, and reconnaissance related to weather-related disasters. “This provides an understanding of what is happening on the ground, helping decision makers and leadership gain insight and information to make appropriate decisions on how to allocate resources and prioritize opening roads,” said Basil Yap, NCDOT’s UAS program manager.

The first time NCDOT used UAS to monitor a disaster was when Hurricane Florence struck in 2018. The agency deployed UAS to monitor flooding, road conditions, and traffic impacts. Flooding caused more than 2,400 road closures across the State, including multi-day closures on Interstates 40 and 95.

In a week-long effort, 15 NCDOT UAS teams flew more than 260 missions and captured more than 8,000 photos and videos of damage and flooding left behind by the storm. Even after the storm ended, NCDOT’s UAS teams continued to assess flooded areas and provide updates, enabling the department to determine which roads were passable for the public and accessible to emergency responders.

NCDOT provided UAS-collected data, images, and video to Federal, State, and local agencies through an online dashboard. The information helped agencies make real-time decisions on providing emergency response, planning detour routes, assessing repair needs, and warning the public of potential dangers on roadways.

NCDOT also used traditional and social media to share information, including a tweet that went viral that showed a UAS-captured photo of what appeared to be a river stretching into the distance. “This isn’t a river, it’s a highway,” NCDOT said in its tweet encouraging travelers to avoid a flooded section of I-40.

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