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FAA supports drone assessments for Houston response and recovery

FAA supports drone assessments for Houston response and recovery

Most FFA-granted waivers allow businesses to operate drones at night.

Washington, D.C. — By Thursday morning, August 31, 2017, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had issued 43 unmanned aircraft system authorizations to drone operators supporting the response and recovery for Hurricane Harvey or covering it as part of the media. The authorizations cover a broad range of activities by local, state and federal officials who are conducting damage assessments of critical infrastructure, homes and businesses to help target, prioritize and expedite recovery activities.

The FAA issued eight of the approvals to a railroad company to survey damage along a major rail line running through the city. Five others were issued so oil or energy companies could look for damage to their facilities, fuel tanks, power lines, and other critical components of the local power grid.

A local fire department and county emergency management officials are operating drones to check for any damage to local roads, bridges, underpasses, water treatment plants, and other infrastructure that may need immediate repairs.

State environmental quality officials are flying drones to understand the impacts of flooding and drainage, and cell tower operators are conducting damage assessments of their structures and associated ground equipment. An operator supporting a number of different insurance companies has started on damage assessments of residences and businesses to speed up the claims process.

In addition to the direct response and recovery efforts, four media outlets are operating drones over Houston to provide ongoing coverage to local residents and the rest of the world about flooding and damage in the Houston area.

Operating drones in the response and recovery area

If you need to operate an unmanned aircraft system or drone in direct support of the Hurricane Harvey response and recovery, you must contact the FAA’s System Operation Security Center (SOSC) to operate in any areas covered by a Temporary Flight Restriction.

Qualifying applicants of public UAS operations should contact the SOSC at 202-267-8276 for assistance. A backup request should be sent to the SOSC via email at 9-ator-hq-sosc@faa.gov.

Qualifying applicants of civil UAS operations must:

  • Secure support from a governmental entity participating in the response relief, or recovery effort, to which the proposed UAS operations will contribute.
  • Contact the SOSC at 202-267-8276 for assistance.
  • Send a backup request to the SOSC via email at 9-ator-hq-sosc@faa.gov.

Requests should be initiated with the SOSC as far in advance as practicable.