Having already won two awards, the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) is now in contention for two further prizes for its use of drones in response to the devastating effects of Hurricane Florence in 2018.
In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Florence, NCDOT used drones in an unprecedented manner to monitor and document flooding, road conditions and traffic impacts. In recognition of those efforts, NCDOT has earned a southern area regional award in the 2019 America’s Transportation Awards competition from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), in the ‘Best Use of Technology and Innovation, Small Project’ category. As a regional winner, the UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) Hurricane Florence Response Project will now compete for two top awards: the Grand Prize, chosen by an independent panel of judges, and the People’s Choice Award, determined by the public through online voting.
More than a dozen NCDOT drone teams flew more than 200 missions and captured 8,000 pictures and videos of the damage and flooding left behind by Hurricane Florence last September. This helped state and federal agencies make real-time decisions around aiding emergency response, planning detour routes, assessing future repair needs, expanding disaster declarations and warning the public of the dangers faced on North Carolina’s roads. This was the first time that drones had been used to monitor a disaster in the state, and the first time in the USA that they were used at such a scale. In May 2018, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) selected the NCDOT as one of 10 participants in its Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program, which involves implementing drone programs to integrate emerging technology into current state and federal regulations.
“Our ability to use drones and other new technologies made NCDOT even more effective at keeping the people of North Carolina safe after Hurricane Florence, and greatly aided the statewide recovery effort,” said NCDOT’s aviation director, Bobby Walston. “The incredible teamwork and ingenuity it took for this operation to be a success undoubtedly saved lives and will serve as a blueprint for future disaster response efforts.”
The project has already won the humanitarian category XCELLENCE Award from the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI). Any winnings by NCDOT will go to the North Carolina Disaster Relief Fund, which has already received the US$5,000 AUVSI prize.