Falcon UAV Gets a Sour Taste of FEMA Bureaucracy
September 17, 2013 7:40 PM
comment(s) - last by
Feds make sure no good deed goes unpunished
To say the
U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency
is oft maligned
may be a bit of an understatement. But agency certainly at times goes out of the way to earn its reputation.
For example during the recent floods in Boulder, Colo. last week, FEMA terminated under threat of arrest a local company's efforts to provide real-time maps of the flood damage with no explanation.
CLMax Engineering LLC looked to chip in to the release effort with its Falcon UAV. Now normally this might sound like a pretty bad idea, but Falcon UAVs are not only
U.S. Federal Aviation Administration
(FAA) approved (aka federally approved to fly in the U.S.), they also are experts in using their onboard GPS and cameras to create 3D maps to produce real-time maps of a disaster-stricken region in a mere half hour.
According to a company blog, CLMax looked to offer the use of the fliers -- for free -- to the
Boulder County Emergency Operations Center
(EOC) and the Incident Management Team (IMT) to help coordinate assessment and rescue efforts. CLMax expected this to make for some good PR.
A Falcon UAV is launched on Thursday [Image Source: CLMax Engineering]
Indeed, for the first three days the fliers chipped in. On Thursday the weather was so bad that the U.S. National Guard was ground, and only Falcon UAV was able to brave the pounding storm. CLMax worked closely with the EOC, who in turn fed in instructions to prevent its flier from hindering National Guard efforts; for example on Friday the Falcon UAVs were temporarily ground while National Guard choppers made rescue efforts.
One of the maps produced by the Falcon flier -- before it was cut off by FEMA.
[Image Source: CLMax Engineering]
But despite after three days of great success, things took a bizarre turn. CLMax recalls:
Early Saturday morning Falcon UAV was heading up to Lyons to complete a damage assessment mapping flight when we received a call from our Boulder EOC point of contact who notified us that FEMA had taken over operations and our request to fly drones was not only denied but more specifically we were told by FEMA that anyone flying drones would be arrested. Not being one to bow to federal bureaucrats we still went up to Lyons to do a site survey for how we can conduct a mission in the near future to provide an adequate damage assessment to this storm raveged community.
While we were up there we noticed that Civil Air Patrol and private aircraft were authorized to fly over the small town tucked into the base of Rockies. Unfortunately due to the high terrain around Lyons and large turn radius of manned aircraft they were flying well out of a useful visual range and didn't employ cameras or live video feed to support the recovery effort. Meanwhile we were grounded on the Lyons high school football field with two Falcons that could have mapped the entire town in less than 30 minutes with another few hours to process the data providing a near real time map of the entire town.
Again, to clarify a couple points:
CLMax was perfectly willing to ground its fliers as long as necessary while FEMA and/or National Guard craft were in the air
CLMax was charging the government nothing for this free service
CLMax had completed three days of successful support efforts with no incidents
FEMA's response seems nothing short of boneheaded and baffling. Moreover why FEMA felt it necessary to threaten to arrest engineers from a reputable federal contractor who provides disaster relief UAVs is unfathomable.
FEMA has offered no comment yet explaining why it would make this bizarre decision. It's a particularly disappointing outcome as drones get a bad rap due to the kinds of operations that citizens fear the government is doing --
armed attacks on "terrorists"
, etc. -- yet here is a company that wants to
put drones to a nobler use
, yet it can't because of bumbling, mess of an agency.
This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled
9/17/2013 10:41:51 PM
FEMA doesn't want a video record of their incompetence; that isn't theirs; that they can't control...duh.
"A lot of people pay zero for the cellphone ... That's what it's worth." -- Apple Chief Operating Officer Timothy Cook
Secret DOJ Memo Suggests Drone Strikes May be Necessary to Kill American "Terrorists"
February 5, 2013, 1:55 PM
FEMA Phone System Hacked
August 22, 2008, 9:20 AM
NASA Remotely Piloted Plane Helps Battle California Wildfires
October 27, 2007, 8:40 PM
Mini Insect Robocops: Engineers, Government Work on RC Insects
October 9, 2007, 10:02 AM
Cool Science Video of the Day: Carnivorous Leech Eats Giant Jungle Worm
October 16, 2014, 6:44 PM
Facebook CEO and Founder, Mark Zuckerberg, Donates $25M to Fight Ebola
October 14, 2014, 5:06 PM
Chagrined Over Leaks, CDC Confirms First U.S. Ebola Diagnosis in Dallas, Texas
September 30, 2014, 5:55 PM
Nail Polish May Soon be Able to Detect Date Rape Drugs
August 26, 2014, 7:57 AM
SpaceX Falcon 9-R Rocket Suffers Malfunction, Self-Destructs During Test Flight
August 23, 2014, 9:36 AM
Texas Chosen as Site for SpaceX's First Commercial Launchpad
August 5, 2014, 1:44 PM
Most Popular Articles
Google Launches "Same-day Delivery" Subscription Service for $95/year
October 14, 2014, 10:37 AM
Ireland to Close Loophole Apple and Google Used to Evade EU Taxes
October 13, 2014, 10:45 PM
Report: Next Generation iPad Air, iPad mini to Receive A8X with 2GB of RAM
October 13, 2014, 5:01 PM
Google Announces Android 5.0 “Lollipop”, Nexus 9 Tablet, and Nexus 6 “Phablet”
October 15, 2014, 12:41 PM
FBI Director: Don't Trust Government, But Give It Your Data Without Transparency
October 13, 2014, 7:20 PM
Latest Blog Posts
The Surface Mini That Was Never Released Gets "Hands On" Treatment
Sep 26, 2014, 8:22 AM
ISIS Imposes Ban on Teaching Evolution in Iraq
Sep 17, 2014, 5:22 PM
Space Terrorism is a Looming Threat For the United States
Apr 23, 2014, 7:47 PM
Facebook Aims to Provide Internet to "Every Person in the World" with Drones, Satellites
Apr 1, 2014, 10:20 AM
Retail Mobile Sites Experience Outages in Light of Simplexity's Bankruptcy
Mar 14, 2014, 8:48 AM
More Blog Posts
Copyright 2014 DailyTech LLC. -
Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information