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UPS and Red Cross test tethered drone technology for disaster relief

The tethered drone.
Image: UPS FOundation

As historic back-to-back hurricanes pummel the United States and the Caribbean, UPS and the Red Cross are testing out new technology to help. 

The package delivery service’s nonprofit foundation is figuring out how to use drones to aid in disaster relief. The new pilot program, which also includes drone manufacturer CyPhy Works, will use tethered drones to assess damage after natural disasters in the United States. 

“With such catastrophic injury and damage being caused by natural disasters, every minute counts. It’s essential that public and private organizations work together to find new and innovative solutions to support and enhance recovery efforts after a natural disaster strikes,” UPS Foundation President Eduardo Martinez said in a statement. 

“Accurately and quickly assessing the impact is a critical step to help save lives and lay the groundwork for eventual recovery and rebuilding.” 

The first test will take place over the course of a week in one of the areas in Louisiana or Texas affected by flooding from Hurricane Harvey.

CyPhy Works’ drone system will fly up to 400 feet above ground with a 30X zoom camera to identify which homes experienced water damage before floodwaters recede. The tethered drone is powered by a generator and can fly for days at a time. 

The UPS Foundation and the Red Cross hope to use drone technology to identify who needs help more quickly—and while disasters are still unfolding. 

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