Could Samaritan Drone Aircraft Help Hurricane Harvey Rescuers?

As the effects of Hurricane Harvey continue to torment southeastern Texas and parts of Louisiana, remote-controlled drone aircraft have offered a bird’s-eye view of the devastation in real time. For nearly a week YouTube users have been posting and sharing aerial footage of flooded roadways and decimated homes in and around Houston. Some of the video shows vehicles perilously plowing through deluged roadways—yet much of it is eerily absent of human activity.

There is good reason for that: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other government agencies issued terse warnings for civilians to keep their drones out of areas where official rescue operations are using low-flying aircraft to locate and evacuate Harvey’s victims. (Much of the footage of the storm had until recently come from television news crews on the ground.) U.S. Air National Guard Maj. Gen. James Witham this week likewise warned civilian drone operators against flying over Harvey’s disaster zone, for fear the mere sight of unauthorized drones would ground rescue helicopters. U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft expressed similar concerns.


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