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Drone usage pushed during disaster relief

FSU now using drones during hurricane exercises

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida could soon be changing the way they tackle some relief efforts following hurricanes and other disasters as Florida State University helps state officials in getting more involved with drone technology.

A bill that was signed into law this year limited what drones could film because of privacy concerns, but that restriction would be waived in the wake of a disaster

Drones are becoming increasingly popular for hobbyists, but FSU has bigger plans.

David Merrick is the school's director of the Center for Disaster Risk Policy. He said the technology could take off for states and agencies working during disaster relief

"One of the big things that we think we can use it for is damage assessment," Merrick said. "In other words, looking at how bad the disaster impacts were, what extent are residences and businesses damaged? How expensive is flooding, road conditions, things like that?"

Last week, FSU became the first school in the country to use the technology during a hurricane exercise.

Merrick and his team were able to broadcast real time video of a mock assessment and recovery effort back to the state's Emergency Operations Center.

Video from the aftermath of Hurricane Wilma in 2005 shows a manned helicopter doing the same type of work. Merrick said the unmanned aerial systems could do the same thing and save money.

"So the concept here is by using relatively inexpensive UAS, we can do that job cheaper and possibly faster than some of the manned aviation assets," Merrick said.

FSU started its unmanned aerial systems program this past spring. It's the only state school that currently offers one.