On September 29, 2022, Skydio launched an all-hands-on-deck effort to support first responders in the wake of Hurricane Ian. Skydio sent employees, provided backup drones, and made Skydio’s advanced software free for impacted first responders. Skydio also launched 24/7 support to ensure first responders had the tools they needed during this challenging time. Our regional team continues to provide around-the-clock drone assistance to Florida’s public safety officials in need of drones, personnel, and support.
We recently spoke to two Skydio team members, Chris Mauser and Bryan King, who are on the ground and focused on supporting Florida public safety agencies. The two shared that “while the dust has settled from the storm itself, the hard work is just beginning.” Chris and Bryan conveyed the unique ways Skydio drones are being used to facilitate Florida’s recovery and reconstruction efforts.
Real-Time Asset Monitoring of the Sanibel Island Bridge
Florida state officials have been urgently working to repair the Sanibel Causeway – the only way on or off Sanibel Island – after Hurricane Ian damaged it severely, making it impassable, and stranding its residents.
Skydio has been providing “sun up to sun down” drone coverage of the causeway and ongoing repair efforts to the Florida Highway Patrol and the Florida State Emergency Operation Center.
The footage is critical for government officials to see response and recovery efforts in real time, enabling them to make rapid decisions designed to accelerate response efforts.
The techniques Florida Highway Patrol has pioneered in responding to Hurricane Ian will set the standard for future disaster response activities.
Search and Rescue in Residential Areas
Chris and Bryan have supported SWAT teams on missions ranging from search and rescue to mapping. In addition to piloting support and training, the team has provided repairs and replenishments of Skydio drone equipment where needed.
Drone overwatch missions have been particularly essential in enhancing search and rescue (SAR) efforts. Skydio’s team has worked hand-in-glove with local police departments in flying drone mapping missions to clear houses and save lives.
With the aerial situational awareness provided by our drones, rescue teams are able to work in a more targeted fashion, concentrating their effort on homes where they have identified survivors, rather than navigating flooded areas to search on foot.
“Whether you’re a current customer or a government agency in need of UAS equipment, our team is available. Through Skydio’s technology, we have been able to help alert the rescue teams and relevant police department officials to assist with successful rescue missions,” said Bryan King.
Example Mission: Search and Rescue in the Mangroves
Mangroves are unique to the tropics and can make it especially difficult for search and rescue teams to do their jobs. These coastal environments are thick with plants that are hard to traverse on foot or by boat, and therefore a difficult search and rescue setting. Even drones can struggle in these environments, because the plant cover can obscure lost individuals in need of rescue.
However, Skydio’s onboard autonomy technology makes these operations manageable, enabling rescue officials to trust their Skydio drones to navigate these dense environments using AI-powered obstacle avoidance. That makes it easier to search hard-to-reach places for victims, analyze debris, and strategically recover boats swept away in the storm.
Paired with well-trained and strategic rescue operators, Skydio drones have helped to provide aerial intelligence that keeps both victims and rescuers safer.
The Mission Continues
Skydio is providing free access to all of our online training tools, and stands ready to provide in-person training for agencies supporting ongoing hurricane recovery efforts.
As search and rescue and clean-up efforts continue, our regional team will remain on the ground to help our customers and any public safety agencies in need of drone assistance. Remotely, our team remains available to assist with any drone issues our public safety and enterprise customers may encounter.
Even though the storm has passed, the mission continues. That’s why we will continue to support first responders on the ground for as long as it takes.