UAS Supports Recovery in Aftermath of Washington State Mudslide

A small unmanned aerial system (UAS) has been used to perform a mission in support of the incident management team responsible for leading the disaster response at the Oso, Wash., mudslide.

The Roboticists Without Borders program at the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue, working in partnership with the Field Innovation Team (FIT), brought UAS teams from the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station, Insitu and PrecisionHawk to survey a portion of the mudslide and river that could not be accessed or viewed through traditional methods.

According to FIT, an AirRobot 100B quadcopter captured visual data, which was then processed using PrecisionHawk's PrecisionMapper photomapping software. The software, FIT reports, generated an interactive, color, 3D reconstruction of the terrain, as well as 2D mosaics.

FIT notes that the AirRobot UAS flew at the direction of the incident management team under an emergency certificate of waiver or authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration. The organization adds that following a 48-minute flight, the first 3D reconstruction was available in 30 minutes. Three hours later, a higher-resolution reconstruction was completed using images collected during additional flights.

‘This is revolutionary. It shows that the responders can gather and visualize data about the site in real time for themselves, without waiting days to get critical information from other agencies,’ says Robin Murphy, director of the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue at Texas A&M University.


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