11:34 AM

CAP Produces 13,000+ sUAS Photos for Puerto Rico Quake Response

Capt. Margot Myers
Public Information Officer
Puerto Rico Disaster Relief Mission

Civil Air Patrol provided more than 13,000 aerial photographs taken from small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS), more commonly referred to as drones, in support of Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster relief efforts in Puerto Rico.

CAP sUAS team members photographed locations selected by FEMA. Flying no higher than 400 feet above ground level, the sUAS are equipped with high-resolution photo and video cameras, depending on the need.

Three two-member sUAS teams and a unit leader deployed Jan. 9 following a series of earthquakes and aftershocks that began two days earlier. Each team consisted of a CAP sUAS mission pilot and an sUAS technician.

A second group of seven CAP members arrived in Puerto Rico to staff sUAS operations Jan. 19, replacing the original team members, and completed its assignments Monday.

CAP also began flying single-engine Cessnas on Jan. 15 for photography missions over areas affected by the earthquakes. Thunderstorms and high winds delayed use of the planes earlier in the mission. Planes fly higher than drones in order to photograph infrastructure such as roads and bridges, power plants, water treatment facilities and dams.

Austin Worcester is the senior program manager for sUAS at CAP National Headquarters. “The sUAS program started because we were trying to find a solution to fixed-wing aircraft being unavailable because of challenging weather conditions and when ground team photos don’t provide the right kind of information that emergency managers need,” Worcester said. “Early in this mission, airplanes were not employed because of winds at altitude, but the sUAS could still fly.”

Both sUAS and planes also can be used to document damage to homes, schools and other structures. The photos they produce are used by FEMA as well as state and local governments to prioritize resources by allowing them to determine where damage is most severe and help is most needed.

With more than 1,600 units, CAP is the largest civilian owner/operator of public safety sUAS in the nation.