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Vigilant Aerospace has provided airspace safety support to the unmanned aircraft response team that has gathered in Houston to help local and federal agencies, including FEMA, in damage assessment and data collection work during the early stages of the Tropical Storm Harvey disaster recovery. The team is profiled in detail, below.

UPDATE: 9-8-2017:

Parker Gyokeres, Team Lead for Humanitarian Drones was interviewed on HLN this morning. The interview featured images from the drone damage surveys the team has been doing this past week.

UPDATE: 9-7-2017:

Vigilant Aerospace is a tech startup that has exclusively licensed NASA’s situational awareness and detect-and-avoid system for unmanned aircraft. Based on NASA technology, we developed a product called FlightHorizon that can be used on a laptop by a drone pilot or onboard the drone as a portable detect-and-avoid system.

It receives and processes signals from existing aviation transponders and ground-based or airborne radar, when available. It tracks a pilot’s drone and provides alerts, warnings and avoidance commands to prevent collisions with other aircraft.

Last week, we traveled to Houston to bring our system to a group of unmanned aircraft pilots providing humanitarian flights to FEMA and other organizations to document damage and help in relief efforts. They used FlightHorizon as a portable airspace safety system as they traveled through some of the hardest hit parts of the Texas Gulf Coast.

We attached a transponder to their primary drone and trained them to use the system to monitor their drone and the surrounding airspace. They were flying with special Certificates of Authority from the FAA to collect data under the Temporary Flight Restriction that covered the region.

We believe that drones can and should play a critical role in disaster response because they provide immediate access to better data, mapping, and situational awareness in a way that is safer, faster and less costly than other methods of assessment, including the use of manned aircraft. FlightHorizon fills a critical gap in the operation of drones in disaster response by providing a portable airspace safety system that is actively monitoring for conflicts, providing audible and visual traffic alerts and providing split-second avoidance guidance for drone pilots.

If you are interested in learning more about flight operations, please contact Parker Gyokeres at http://humanitariandrones.org/

They produced and shared this video, including a thank you to Vigilant Aerospace and NASA:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2CdkQJ01OSg

UPDATE: 9-5-2017: The humanitarian drone team is now flying for FEMA in Port Arthur, Corpus Christi, Rockport and other hard-hit Texas Gulf Coast towns in order to help document damage and direct aid. They are using FlightHorizon in an overwatch capacity to monitor aircraft in their airspace and keep their UAS safe and out of the way of other aircraft. They are flying under valid FAA COAs, where necessary.

See story in Wired Magazine: ABOVE DEVASTATED HOUSTON, ARMIES OF DRONES PROVE THEIR WORTH

Vigilant Aerospace has provided the team with a FlightHorizon detect-and-avoid and situational awareness kit, including fully configured software, sensor-equipped laptop and a transponder for their surveying aircraft. We will be on-call to provide ongoing remote support to this team.

 

The system will be used to keep their aircraft safe while flying near other first-responders. We completed install, setup, testing and training with a team member who will be providing airspace monitoring and visual observation while the team is flying. Flights are being conducted under FAA Certificates of Authorization (COA) issued in support of government agencies.

While conducting training and testing of FlightHorizon, the system consistently detected evacuation and helicopters moving people and food, military aircraft providing support, and NOAA research aircraft orbiting the airspace.

Aircraft were displayed on-screen and were tracked locally from the receiver attached to the FlightHorizon laptop, enabling the system to travel with the team and to be turned on and used immediately from the laptop whenever they need to fly.

The team has provided damage assessment and data collection services to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), who are working to collect data in the greater Gulf Coast region for flood damage assessment and aid.

These hardworking people have given up their time and money to come to the area from both nearby and from other states to help these departments, on-demand. They bring deep expertise, military backgrounds in many cases, and sophisticated equipment including small and mid-sized unmanned aircraft equipped with high-resolution sensors that are normally used for industrial inspection work and HD videography.

We applaud them, and all of the volunteers and first-responders working in the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast region to provide search and rescue, immediate life-saving aid, and eventual recovery services to those affected by the disaster.

 

On a personal note, having spent a few days doing hands-on equipment install and training with these folks, I came to admire their fighting spirit and willingness to lend a hand in tough circumstances to those in great need and to the agencies providing immediate rescue and aid. Putting sophisticated technology into the field in a disaster zone is challenging (!!) and these people are able to do it with excellence and vigor. We are proud to support them in this mission.

– Kraettli L. Epperson, CEO, Vigilant Aerospace

UPDATE: 9-5-2017: The Humanitarian Drone Team created a video about their work and thanking their supporters:

UAS Response Team – Humanitarian Drones

www.HumanitarianDrones.org

Parker Gyokeres

Parker Gyokeres

Owner at Propellerheads Aerial Photography & UAS Pilot in Command

About Propellerheads Aerial Photography
Propellerheads is a veteran owned, FAA Part 107 licensed, fully insured, New York state-based business providing heavy lift cinematography, professional aerial photography, thermal imaging, NDVI multi-spectral, 3-D photogrammetry, and more. Propellerheads holds a nationwide FAA waiver for night-time operations and specializes in high risk indoor, close proximity, and closed-set operations. For more information, visit www.PropheadsPhoto.com.

Jes Chosid

Jes Chosid

Principle at Reign Maker

About Reign Maker
Reign Maker is a certified Women-Owned Business Enterprise (WBE) based in New York, New York which provides marketing, design, and drone aerial videography, photography, and consultation services. Reign Maker uses unmanned aerial systems to bridge the gap between government/industrial projects and technology to provide inspections, modeling, documentation, and data capture services. For more information, visit www.GoReignMaker.com.

Glenn Cox

Glenn Cox

CEO at Elevate Aerial Imagery

About Elevate Aerial Imagery
Elevate Aerial Imagery is a drone services company based in the Houston, Texas area which provides unmanned aerial services and consulting including orthomosaic images, 3D modeling and landscape photography, thermal imaging, and video production. For more information, visit www.ElevateAerialImagery.com.

Daniel Herbert

Daniel Herbert

CEO at Skygear Solutions

About Skygear Solutions
Skygear Solutions is a provider of radio-controlled multi-rotor and aerial film products and services based in the New York, New York. Skygear is a leading provider of aerial services, training, and equipment in the eastern region of the U.S. with established customer bases in the private, public, and government sectors. For more information, visit www.SkygearSolutions.com.

Mark Blacklin

Mark Blacklin

UAS Expert & Data Integration Supervisor at CGRS

About CGRS
CGRS is an environmental compliance company based Colorado which provides a full array of services including compliance inspection and testing, permitting, engineering/design, construction, leak detection, water quality sampling and assessment, air emissions management, mapping and unmanned aerial services, material management, and more . For more information, visit www.CGRS.com.

Tyris Audronis

Tyris Audronis

Owner at Audronis Media

About Audronis Media
Audronis Media is a media and drone services consulting company based in the Houston, Texas area. The company’s services include aerial cinematography, visual effects and animation, studio design, creative writing, programming and mobile applications development, and more. For more information, visit www.Audronis.com.

Christopher Fudge

Drone Pilot at Aerial Project Analytics

About Aerial Project Analytics
Aerial Project Analytics is a data driven drone services company which provides a wide array of  unmanned aerial services including photogrammetry, 3D mapping and point cloud data analysis, 2D orthomosaic imaging, and spot elevation data. They offer hardware, cloud access, training, data gathering and analysis, and more. For more information, visit www.Aerial-Project-Analytics.com.

Kraettli Epperson

Kraettli Epperson

CEO at Vigilant Aerospace Systems

About Vigilant Aerospace Systems
Vigilant Aerospace Systems square logoVigilant Aerospace Systems, Inc. is a provider of industry-leading next-generation flight management and safety systems for both manned and unmanned aircraft. The company’s software platform, FlightHorizon™, is based on an exclusively licensed NASA patent and provides situational awareness, synthetic cockpit views, collision avoidance and other flight information to enable integration of commercial drones into the national airspace. For more information, visit www.VigilantAerospace.com.

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