Unlike many other drone pioneers in the U.S., O’Neill-Dunne’s Spatial Analysis Lab has an easy relationship with state and federal regulators: The drone pilots work closely with state airspace authorities, and Vermont’s limited land area and small population have proved a good testing ground for drone disaster response tactics.
The University of Vermont also holds a Section 333 exemption from the Federal Aviation Administration, allowing it to legally use the UAVs under controlled conditions out of the state. Even before the derailment, the drones proved their utility for small-town disasters, after destructive rainstorms hit central Vermont on July 19. In the riverside town of Plainfield, the team used the eBee to carry out a rapid assessment of the damage to homes and roads and studied the aerial imagery to figure out how much wood and other debris was clogging local streams, potentially making bridges impassable.
Excellent article for those of you interested in using drones for disaster response.