Katrina: Aug. 31, 2005, 10th Anniversary of First Small UAS Flight

CRASAR was the first to fly SUAS for a disaster– Hurricane Katrina on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1 for the state of Florida which was assisting with the Mississippi response. Other groups flew too, but CRASAR was first with iSENSYS and WinTEC as our Roboticists Without Borders partners. WIRED has a nice piece on Katrina with some of the footage for our birds.

We were originally tasked to go to New Orleans to help our colleagues with the LSU Fire Emergency Training Institute. It’s a long story but basically, we needed a police escort to get into NOLA so we fell back to Mississippi to help there. Later we returned to the Gulf Coast and flew 32 structural inspection missions over 8 days, establishing crew organization and operational protocols that are now standard in the European Union and Japan. We also discovered that experts from FEMA, Thornton Thomasetti, universities could not readily comprehend the imagery– as we all suspected getting photos IS different than being there, and more so when safety is involved. That motivated a significant amount of research including the Skywriter project to help remote experts direct the robot through the real-time video feed.

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