NATURAL DISASTER I ACUTE EMERGENCY I ASSESSMENTS
Type of system: Indago Multi-copter Microdrones by Lockheed Martin, 960L by Allign, Phantom 2 Vision+ by DJI and Fixed wing model UX-5 by Trimble
Deploying agency: World Bank with UAViators
Piloting agency: Heliwest, Australia, and X-Craft, New Zealand
Dates of Deployment: 28 March to 12 April 2015
Authors: Patrick Meier, Denise Soesilo
Cyclone Pam struck Vanuatu and destroyed thousands of homes, schools and other buildings. The Humanitarian UAV Network carried out aerial surveys as the first operational project related to the World Bank UAVs for Resilience programme. The UAV team formulated standard operating procedures and coordination mechanisms, and carried out about 200 flights. Logistical and communication challenges, a lack of clarity about specific data requirements and the lack of a standardized file format limited the success of the project, but the drones mapped areas more quickly than any other available method, and the World Bank notes that extensive learning and insights were gained through the UAV mission.
On 13 March 2015, tropical Cyclone Pam, a category 5 storm, struck Vanuatu, a collection of 82 islands that stretch across 1 300 kilometres, and became one of the worst natural disasters in the country’s history. Wind gusts reached as high as 320 km/hour destroying thousands of homes, schools and other buildings, leaving 16 people dead and displacing 3 300 people. The cyclone affected a total of 132 000 people, including 54 000 children. Within days the World Bank asked the Humanitarian UAV Network (UAViators) to carry out aerial surveys of as many disaster-affected areas as possible to supplement the post-disaster needs assessment. The Government of Vanuatu, through the South Pacific Commission, identified priority areas for the aerial surveys while carrying out their own initial damage assessments in the wake of Cyclone Pam. The priority areas were Shefa (Efate Urban, Efate Rural, Epi, Tongoa) and Tafea (Tanna, Erromango) and Malampa (Ambrym, Pentecost). The World Bank chose to use UAVs instead of helicopters due to the limited and unpredictable availability and cost of chartered helicopters in Vanuatu. In addition, producing high-resolution ortho-rectified mosaics requires specific flight plans and altitudes that are typically not achievable with helicopters. The purpose of the aerial surveys was to complement the field-based disaster damage assessments to identify which buildings were fully destroyed versus damaged but reparable versus largely intact. The mission was carried out between 28 March and 12 April 2015.