Harvey Relief Operations Bring Out the Best American Traits during Local Drone Survey Work

It looks like a full-blown combat zone. So goes the description of the aftermath of hurricane Harvey by a former Marine Corps intelligence officer. Helping the recovery operations are drones and organizations who work with first responders.

The Ground Zero of Harvey is Rockport, where the core landfall took place a week ago. Here, local resident Capt. Jamie McAlister of the Rockport VFD is involved in relief work, along with Rick Lusk, from Guntersville, Alabama.

Lusk is the Director of the Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) Research Center at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He is partnered with the Lone Star UAS Center of Excellence and Innovation at Corpus Christi and the Texas A&M University system. Together they will help assess damage to critical infrastructure and provide environmental monitoring to aid in recovery efforts.

On the National Day of Prayer, McAlister spent the day along with the Lone Star Drone Teams. The region here has seen nearly 60 percent of its buildings destroyed. McAlister, who owns a hobby drone, helped guide the drone teams in the area as they flew imaging and survey missions across the area.

The day before, when Jerry Hendrix, Executive Director of Lone Star, was making first contact with local first responders, McAlister asked Hendrix to do something to make him smile. So Hendrix asked McAlister to accompany the team on the next day’s mission.

“It made sense to include the Captain of the fire department and a local resident who knows the entire area like the back of his hand to ground guide our efforts,” says Lusk. “Besides, after seeing this place, how could anyone not say yes to that?”

According to McAlister, a formal and standardized training for first-responders and a state-wide organized response mechanism using this technology is needed and will continue to be needed.

“This is the best of America,” noted Hendrix. He considers it an honor to come to aid of the fine people of Aransas county as part of the monumental effort being spent in Texas and the response from the rest of the country for bringing relief and recovery.

County Judge Burt Mills, who authorized the drone flights, said afterwards, “At times like this, you see not only how Texans, but Americans come together. God bless you, God bless Texas, God bless America.”

For more information, please visit: www.lsuasc.tamucc.edu

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