Drones are cheap to operate,
and anyone can own them provided they get a license from the Federal Aviation
Administration, which means that in times of disasters, licensed volunteers can
join hands with authorities to identify areas requiring rapid response.
Traditionally, rescue teams rely on satellite images and footage from
helicopters to identify hot-spot areas.
While satellite images are less
detailed, obtaining footage from a manned aircraft is tedious and very costly.
Drones, on the other hand, are more reliable because they can take closer shots
and usually come with high-resolution cameras and mapping tools. Some are
even made to
withstand harsh weather conditions
such as hurricanes and can, therefore, be used to give a minute-by-minute
account of a disaster as it unfolds.
And the usage of unmanned
vehicles in disaster management could soon transform, thanks to blockchain, AI
and machine learning innovations. AI and machine learning enable drones to
navigate accurately without requiring human intervention. And blockchain
technology ensures security and full transparency for parties within a given
drone network. A major goal here is to ensure that drones do not inadvertently
interfere with rescue operations.
When all drones within a given
area are registered on a blockchain network, it becomes possible to monitor
their whereabouts without disclosing personal details. What this means is that
in times of disaster, authorities can identify and stop those operating
illegally. Blockchains also provide an opportunity for private drone operators
to get paid for their work.
When it comes to disaster
management, incentivizing volunteer drone operators attracts expertise and
encourages fast response. A blockchain-based project known as Soar is already exploring opportunities in this area
through its Skymap token. Drone operators can upload their video content and
data onto the Soar marketplace and get paid in tokens when other users purchase
Soar is seeking to use
satellite, aerial and drone imagery to create a detailed world “super map” that
regularly updates as drone operators across the globe upload new images. Drone
operators whose images are selected to update the map will get remunerated
through smart contracts. A highly detailed and regularly updated map would
be very helpful in
emergency management, from planning through response and recovery to the
mitigation of future events.
A project known as Distributed Sky is also exploring the use of blockchain technology and
AI in the drones industry. The Distributed Sky project aims to create an air
traffic control system for unmanned aircraft across the globe. It will achieve
this by enabling transparent and highly secure peer-to-peer communication between
drones, their operators and other parties within the network.
As mentioned earlier, one of
the biggest challenges in the use of drones in disaster management is traffic
management. With Distributed Sky, this will be a concern of the past, given
that different drone operators will be able to coordinate with each other and
with emergency agencies.
During Michael, the recent
hurricane to hit the Southeast, authorities have been so worried about
uncoordinated drones interfering with rescue missions that the FAA has imposed
a $20,000 fine on anyone caught operating a drone without a license. With
projects such as Distributed Sky, the authorities can track every drone in
their area and do not have to worry about these devices getting in the way of
help or restricted areas.
The entry of blockchain technology in the drones industry is
still in its earliest stages, with more promising developments yet to come.
Undoubtedly, disaster management is among the biggest beneficiaries of the
union between drones, blockchains and AI.