Local company hopes to coordinate drone search efforts in Houston

Houston is overwhelmed when it comes to search and rescue efforts so they are seeking help from the skies above, not helicopters, but drones.

CHESAPEAKE - CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WVEC) -- Houston is overwhelmed when it comes to search and rescue efforts so they are seeking help from the skies above, not helicopters, but drones.

A company called DroneUp, is mobilizing a team of independent volunteer drone operators to go to Houston, and starting Thursday, provide much needed areal video and photos.

It could potentially be the largest humanitarian drone response in U.S. history.

Up until now the FAA had not permitted any independent drone operators to help in the search and rescue efforts.

“They don’t know who these drone operators are, they don’t know what kind of certifications they have, they don’t know how to communicate with them,” said Tom Walker, CEO of DroneUp.

This where Walker steps in. He is the middle man between the government and independent drone operators across the country.

“We know who the drone operators are, we know their training, their certification, we know their experience,” said Walker. “And most importantly our system gives a complete picture of air space, where the drones are, where the fixed wing aircraft are.”

After meeting with a number of high ranking government officials over the last two days Walker and his team have been given the assignment of overseeing all independent volunteer drone operations in Houston.

“Our number one focus down there is to be an asset to the search and rescue operations, not to be a problem,” said Walker.

There are about 325 independent drone operators ready to launch in Houston alone and potentially thousands more waiting around the country.

“You actually bring a picture to the emergency response that you don’t have now,” said Walker.

However, Walker said it’s not about numbers.

“We only want to respond with the highest qualified operators that we have,” said Walker. “At the end of the day if we flew 300 missions and only saved one life then we made an impact, that’s what matters.”

Walker said this mission could change the way drones are used in emergency operations forever.

If you own a drone and want to volunteer in a community mission just download the DroneUp App and sign up for free.

© 2017 WVEC-TV


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