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Civil drone helps NetHope Haiyan relief efforts in the Philippines

by: Paige Dearing on 12/17/2013


In Tacloban, everything was destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan: raised houses, destroyed bridges, blocked roads, disrupted communications; and tens of thousands of people were affected, and needed help.

The international rescue teams who arrived on the archipelago soon after the disaster struck were met with major logistical challenges, as they tried to access areas that had been isolated by the devastation. NGOs needed help that could fly.

Huginn X1 drone in Tacloban

To assist in relief efforts, Danoffice IT sent an expert and one Sky-Watch Huginn X1 drone to the disaster area.

On the ground, NetHope member organization Direct Relief utilized the Huginn X1 drone and coordinated its use among other responding NGOs.

“Civil drone has had an immediate and substantial impact on the ability of groups like Direct Relief and Team Rubicon to gain high-speed visual awareness of complex situations that threaten to put humanitarian responders at significant personal risk,” said Andrew Schroeder, Director of Research and Analysis for Direct Relief. “The Huginn X1 was not only valuable in terms of structural assessment but also as a way to scout locations in advance to determine the best possible routes of approach and assistance.”

The drone was initially used to identify the best location for rescue teams to set up their base camps, and later used to assist NGOs in repairing the Carigara Hospital, as well as to assess local road quality to identify blocking debris or necessary repairs. The drone was also used for search-and-rescue operations in the Bay of Tacloban.

The quadricopter directed via a touch screen provides live feed video

"This quadricopter (device using four propellers) is equipped with two cameras: a high-definition color and another thermal,” said Denis Kerlero of Rosbo, Marketing Manager Danoffice IT. “The user, who can be up to 2km from the device, flies it via a touch screen display which provides live images from one or more of the cameras."

The quadricopter flew over the devastated buildings in Tacloban to assess damages and estimate resources and equipment needed.

Despite being easy to fly, Danoffice IT preferred to send an expert with the drone to allow NGOs to focus on their mission.

"Humanitarian and relief NGOs have their rescue mission to complete,” said Denis Kerlero de Rosbo. “So, the idea is not to slow down things but to bring additional support in the field"

Four years of research and development

On this difficult ground, the Huginn X1 proved its effectiveness in emergency response. With four years of research and development, the drone can also perform well in other missions, including: checking power lines, assessing fire or highway accident areas, giving aerial overviews of refugee camps or helping to fight against poaching in Africa.

"The visual information about a place or a situation is key for NGOs but also for many United Nations agencies responsible for refugees and migrants,” said Denis Kerlero de Rosbo. “The Huginn X1 provides a valuable service.”