In the aftermath of Southern California’s massive Woolsey fire, which burned through 97,000 acres and hundreds of structures in November, drones are being put to work.
Simi Valley-based drone maker AeroVironment is one of the companies putting its drone to work in the natural disaster department, aiding National Park Service in Woolsey fire recovery efforts with a drone-based aerial imaging and environmental impact study to assess the fire damage. The company is using their Quantix drone and Decision Support System analytics platform, to conduct a study with the intent to inform long-term environmental recovery and park rebuilding strategy.
The Woolsey wildfire struck Southern California in November, destroying 88% of National Park Service land within Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation was destroyed, including Paramount Ranch where HBO’s Westworld was filmed.
AeroVironment in the past has largely been known for its defense-focused drones and tactical missile systems. The California-based drone maker makes drones both for reconnaissance and as lethal weapons, including small drones the size of a water bottle. One of those drones, the 5-ounce Snipe drone, is being used by the U.S. Department of Defense, though the company also sells to other international customers including the Australian military and an unnamed Middle East customer.
But the company in recent months has started devoting more attention to non-military focused use cases, such as the Woolsey fire project. Much of that attention has been focused around the new Quantix drone, which primarily targets agricultural clients. The Quantix has been a game-changer for farmers with its fully-automated takeoff, flight and landing, eliminating the learning curve for agricultural experts who don’t necessarily want to learn how to fly a drone. The drone is intended for quickly mapping acreage (it can scout up to 400 acres in 45 minutes), allowing farmers to easily spot crop health and operational issues that might be missed by the naked eye. From there, anomalies can be identified and ground truthed to determine water, insect, weed and disease pressures.