UPS, American Red Cross and CyPhy Works launch disaster drone pilot

The UPS Foundation, the American Red Cross and drone manufacturer CyPhy Works, Inc. announced on 7 September the formation of a partnership to launch a drone pilot programme. This will be the first time the American Red Cross tests a tethered drone to assess damage after a major natural disaster in the US, the organisations said.

Eduardo Martinez, president of the UPS Foundation and chief diversity and inclusion officer, said: “With such catastrophic injury and damage being caused by natural disasters, every minute counts. It’s essential that public and private organisations work together to find new and innovative solutions to support and enhance recovery efforts after a natural disaster strikes.” He added: “Accurately and quickly assessing the impact is a critical step to help save lives and lay the groundwork for eventual recovery and rebuilding. The UPS Foundation is pleased to bring together, fund and support this effort, in partnership with CyPhy Works and the American Red Cross.”

The partners said they would deploy the drone and conduct a one-week, on-site test in an area badly affected by the recent hurricane-induced flooding. This pilot could serve as a future model for a rapid response team, they said.

Brad Kieserman, vice-president of disaster services and logistics at American Red Cross, commented: “The measure of success for the American Red Cross on this pilot will be to prove that drones can help support, complement and accelerate the work already being done by our tremendous volunteers. In collaboration with UPS and CyPhy Works, we are thrilled to be conducting a pilot programme with a drone for the first time in the US. This will help us make faster assessments of affected communities that critically need our assistance.”

A CyPhy Works Persistent Aerial Reconnaissance and Communications (PARC) system was selected for the pilot. The tethered drone will go up 400 ft (120 m) to provide aerial images to ground team members. As it can be powered by a generator through the tether, the aircraft can stay aloft for days or even weeks at a time.

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