Amtrak disaster in Vermont
An Amtrak passenger train derailed in Northfield, Vermont on October 5, 2015, injuring six people of a total of 98 passengers and four crew. One crew member was injured seriously. The train was en route to Washington, DC when the drailment occured. In wake of the disaster, authorities decided to turn to the Spatial Analysis Lab at the University of Vermont to quickly document the wreck with a high-resolution orthomosaic photo using the eBee drone by Sensefly (the same platform used by we at PLS.) The team at Spatial Analysis Lab documented 280 images within an hour of arrival and were able to provide exact spatial coordinates of the wreckage. Such information is invaluable for planning an effective emergency response and site repair. Drone reconnaissance is rapidly becoming a standard part of disaster response around the world. Read more about the Amtrak derailment and how the University of Vermont was able to help using drone mapping at Slate.com.
F-16 Fighting Falcon collision with Cessna 150
On July 7, 2015 an F-16 fighter jet collided with a Cessna 150, creating about a 7-mile debris field over Berkley County in Moncks Corner, South Carolina. The fighter pilot ejected safely but the father and son in the Cessna were killed. The F-16 struck the Cessna broadside. The disaster area presented a difficult challenge for search and rescue since the wreckage was located in a swamp. Much of the debris was submerged and made difficult or impossible to see from helicopters because of ripples in the water due to rotor wash. Approaching boats faced a similar challenge because the boats also caused water turbulence, stirring up mud and debris from the swamp bottom. Drones were able to bypass these problems as they were able to investigate the crash site with virtually no environmental disturbance. Investigators were able to obtain wreckage and debris coordinates directly from aerial drone photography, then proceed efficiently to the desired coordinates. “We cut days off the search and recovery time,” said Tom Fernandez of Skyview Aerial Solutions, who donated his services for the search.
According to Slate, “Disaster response drones have been used in Nepal, Haiti, and Vanuatu and are increasingly finding their way into the toolkits of disaster response teams in the U.S”