Drones Could Be Verizon's New Disaster Response Tool

February 29, 2016

Jeff Schweitzer was in Camp Shelby, Miss., days after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and the U.S. Gulf coast in 2005. At the time he was an interoperability architect with the U.S. Army’s CIO/G-6 team, and was working to set up a communications hub at Camp Shelby to manage the emergency response. “We had 54 agencies that responded to that event—and it was obviously an utter disaster,” Schweitzer recalls. Now a chief innovation architect for Verizon, Schweitzer’s tackling the same sort of problem at the telecommunications giant: How to set up a pop-up communications network to quickly coordinate an emergency response effort, and how to do it while using the most modern tools the company has. That’s why Schweitzer returned to Camp Shelby last month to help Verizon complete a test of the newest device it plans to add to its response team—drones. When natural disasters strike, Verizon turns to the specialized workers of its Major Emergency Response Incident Teams. These are the people who head out in mobile command centers and satellite trucks to restore basic communications in the event tornadoes or hurricanes knock out power lines or destroy cell towers. Generally this is enough, but sometimes street signs are part of the carnage making it more challenging to navigate, or some disaster zones are so isolated it’s difficult to reach areas where help is needed the most. “How do you get people moving around when even the simple things we take for granted aren’t available to us?” Schweitzer says. “Looking up for a street sign and the street sign is no longer there—it complicates the response efforts tremendously.” Read more: http://fortune.com/2016/02/15/verizon-disaster-response-drones/

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