Mapping Catastrophe: How the eBee X’s BVLOS Capabilities Helped NCDOT’s Hurricane Florence Disaster Response

Catastrophic storms are a reality people around the world know all too well. But thanks to advancements in drone technology, such as beyond-visual-line-of-sight flights (BVLOS), government agencies are now better equipped to help with disaster response.

Take, for example, Hurricane Florence, which hit North Carolina particularly hard in September 2018.

For the first time in its history, the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) employed fixed-wing drone technology with BVLOS capability to evaluate the damage and help the community rebuild as quickly as possible.

NC flooding after Hurricane Florence

The Problem

Hurricane Florence generated $24 billion in damage and left 1.1 million without power. It produced persistent rain over the course of three weeks, causing massive flooding and record rainfall.

The flooding alone caused more than 2,400 road closures, including North Carolina’s I-40 highway. More than miles of highway was left underwater. As if the loss of power and extensive property damage wasn’t enough, a major highway was left inaccessible. Just to evaluate the extent of flooding was a seemingly impossible task.

That’s where senseFly came in.

NC flooding after Hurricane Florence

The Solution

Under NCDOT’s COA, senseFly deployed its eBee X fixed-wing drone to fly at 200 feet AGL over the flooded highway. It launched at 1:45 p.m. and flew for an hour on a single battery, capturing 2,050 photos with senseFly’s Aeria X photogrammetry camera. The drone’s RTK technology is proven to achieve high standards of reliability even in less-than-ideal flight conditions. Its capabilities generated a georectified orthomosaic without any ground control utilization. The images and data were then processed with Pix4D software to access the state of the area.

eBee after Hurricane Florence

The Outcome

In less than 24 hours, senseFly flew the requested area, processed the flight data and generated a deliverable for NCDOT. The hour-long flight produced accurate, useful information to fully understand the extent of damage and flooding of I-40.

The disaster response operations carried out by NCDOT and senseFly became one of the most successful operations involving drones in the United States. It also became the first BVLOS operation for NCDOT.

The combination of NCDOT’s quick thinking and senseFly’s fixed-wing drone technology proved just how efficient and helpful drone technology can be, especially in the aftermath of such a devastating natural disaster.

With hurricane Dorian fast-approaching, it’s vital for government agencies to remember the benefits of adding drone technology to hurricane relief efforts.

To learn more about senseFly drones, please visit www.senseFly.com.