Drone operators work to help Philippines' Typhoon Haiyan survivors

By Lara Yamada
Published On: Jan 19 2014 12:11:36 PM HST

UAV Developer Ted Ralson and UH Grad student Chuck Devaney have teamed up with nonprofit Hawaii Pacific Foundation to take small unmanned aerial vehicles into the heart of the devastation.

HONOLULU -

A team of techies from Hawaii returned to the devastated areas, where that team is showing how small, inexpensive drones could be the tool survivors need to rebuild.

“Aerial imagery is very expensive, said the University of Hawaii Graduate Chuck Devaney.
 
UAV Developer Ted Ralston and Devaney have teamed up with non-profit Hawaii Pacific Foundation to take small unmanned arial vehicles into the heart of the devastation. 

Images of standing trees with their tops shredded gave researchers a chilling idea of how high the water rose.

“A lot things can be interpreted if you just have a snapshot of the ground. What they actually need at this point is to get an accurate understanding and a very detailed level at the village level, at the camp level, as to what exactly is going on,” said Devaney.
 
With his commercially made, easy-to-find drone, you get a clear picture of the damage to the sports complex, the hospital, showing water levels above the roof and the footprint of homes swept away by flood waters.

“So, you can begin to measure the level of issues by how many tarps are out there. We can see that this is a building footprint. We can see that it might be for households with one plot, so that each household get its own set of tarps, or certain amount of money for restoration,” said Ralston.
 

Devaney said, not only did they meet with officials, they met with kids and residents, who were anxious to learn how their little planes could transform their lives.
 
“I'm giving them the knowledge. I'm getting them the empowerment to do this whole thing on their own,” he said.

Ralston said they're hoping for more funding, but are committed to using the technology to reorganize and rebuild devastated areas.

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