Using Drone Technology for Disaster Risk Reduction and Disaster Management

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Dr. Ruchi Saxena

Director, Caerobotics

Drones can be effectively used in disaster risk reduction and disaster management in India which has a high disaster vulnerability. Drones are very helpful in making the rescue and relief operations safer, quicker and more efficient.

Drones could be used as aerial, aquatic as well as ground machines. Their performance can be enhanced by the use of cameras, infrared cameras, obstacle sensors, autonomous mission programs, mapping sensors, communication relay technologies, cargo and personnel carrying capacities, fire fighting tools and laser pointers. Sturdier and longer range drones can be utilised for longer distances and rough weather conditions along tough terrains. A fleet of different drones with different capabilities aggregated and launched through a network of safety controlled ground stations or ‘drone ports’ will make the disaster preparedness exercise more effective by improving the readiness to respond to the current and future disasters.

Why should drones be used?

  1. Drone technology can reduce disaster worker exposure to unnecessary danger
  2. Drones enhance the effectiveness of responders
  3. Drones provide unique viewing angles at low altitudes not possible from manned aircraft
  4. Drone technology is highly deployable
  5. Drone technology is cost-efficient

Dirty, Dull and Dangerous Missions:

Any situation where risks and losses of sending a human task force is high, robots can be deployed. Unmanned aerial robots, or drones can be used where deploying even helicopters is either not feasible or advisable.


Using a drone is much cheaper than using any other manned road or air transport. Cost of making and procuring a drone is much less than procuring an aircraft. Losing a drone is way better than losing a pilot during a crash. So situations where we expect crashes as in rough weather or volcanoes, it is better to sacrifice a drone.

What can drones do during Disasters?

  1. Aerial mapping and surveillance
  2. Day and night, long endurance surveillance of the disaster site
  3. Provide situational awareness
  4. Perform structural analysis of damaged infrastructure
  5. Search and Rescue Operations
  6. Temporary Infrastructure / Supply Delivery
  7. Deliver aid, necessary supplies and equipment
  8. Deliver blood and medicines
  9. Evacuate casualties
  10. Relay wi-fi where communication is poor
  11. Survey nuclear sites, volcanoes, mines
  12. Analysis of flood movement and extension
  13. Predict and survey landslides
  14. Track and trace lost survivors in avalanche or floods
  15. Reconnaissance and Mapping
  16. Wildfire – Detection and Extinguishing
  17. High-Rise Building Fire Response
  18. Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, or Explosive (CBRNE) Event
  19. Airborne dispersion of chemical and/or neutralizing agents
  20. Provision of long range / long haul communications from the disaster site
  21. Insurance Claims Response and Risk Assessment
  22. Air quality and environmental monitoring
  23. Map out levels of contaminants within buildings and on ground

This can help us in:

  1. Risk assessment and mapping
  2. Planning response and relief efforts
  3. Reduce overall damage and losses
  4. Rebuilding and recovery
  5. Strengthening community resilience

Who has used Drones before for Disasters?

According to a 2015 report, government approved drone operations have been used in 43 disasters in 13 countries. Of the drone missions performed, 23 have used ground-based systems, 7 maritime, and 21 aerial.

Disasters where Drones were Utilised:

  1. Hurricane Katrina, 2005 – Response and recovery
  2. Hurricane Wilma, 2005
  3. Italy Earthquake, 2009
  4. Typhoon Marakot, Taiwan, 2009
  5. Haiti Earthquake, 2010
  6. New Zealand Earthquake, 2011
  7. Japan Earthquake, 2011
  8. Fukushima Nuclear Emergency, 2011
  9. Cyprus Naval base explosion, 2011
  10. Thailand floods, 2011
  11. Italy Earthquake, 2012
  12. Typhoon Haiyaan, Philipines, 2013
  13. China Earthquake, 2013
  14. Colorado floods, 2013
  15. US Mudslides, 2014
  16. Balkans Flooding, 2014
  17. Solomon Islands floods, 2014
  18. US Landslide, 2014
  19. China Earthquake, 2014
  20. Nepal Earthquake, 2015
  21. Vanuatu Floods, 2015
  22. Ecuador Earthquake, 2016

International Partners helping in Drone deployments

  1. WeRobotics
  2. Red Cross
  3. World Food Program
  5. WHO
  6. World Bank
  7. NHS
  8. UNDP
  9. USAID
  10. Rockfeller Foundation



Governments that have supported Drones


  1. India
  2. Nepal
  3. Bhutan
  4. US
  5. Australia
  6. UK
  7. Rwanda
  8. Ghana
  9. Zambia
  10. Kenya
  11. Lagos
  12. China
  13. Vanuatu
  14. Haiti
  15. Mexico
  16. Australia
  17. New Zealand
  18. UAE
  19. Singapore
  20. Switzerland