wildfires - AP photoWith hurricanes and wildfires devastating huge swaths of the country, a small operation in the small town of Bingen along the Columbia Gorge is sending their drones to help with hurricane rescue and firefighting teams. The high resolution surveillance cameras flying over disaster regions help officials determine the extent of damage and when it is safe to bring in relief personnel. They are able to locate sunken ships and equipment; and create maps of debris fields to protect other ships navigating the areas.

Insitu is a subsidiary of Boeing and has been developing an arsenal of drones that have a 10 foot wingspan and carry infrared video cameras that can monitor fire zones for up to 20 hours at a time. Teams are deployed to disaster areas with staged drones, surveillance and computer equipment to provide real time information that can make rescue and recovery work targeted and efficient. Read more in The Seattle Times.

Washington State’s aerospace sector is at the forefront of drone technology, ranking #2 in the US for unmanned aerial vehicle production. From locating boats lost at sea to the current demand for monitoring wildfires and hurricane damage, drones are providing critical information that has not been readily available in the past without sending man-powered surveillance into potentially dangerous situations.