NCDOT’s Use of Drones after Hurricane Florence Wins Award

Photo above – Drone-captured image of floodwaters in Chinquapin, NC after Hurricane Florence.

In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Florence, the N.C. Department of Transportation used drones in an unprecedented manner to monitor and document flooding, road conditions and traffic impacts.

In recognition of those efforts, NCDOT has earned a regional award in the 2019 America’s Transportation Awards competition from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), in the “Best Use of Technology and Innovation, Small Project” category.

More than a dozen NCDOT drone teams flew more than 200 missions and captured 8,000 pictures and videos of the damage and flooding left behind by Hurricane Florence last September. This helped state and federal agencies make real-time decisions around aiding emergency response, planning detour routes, assessing future repair needs, expanding disaster declarations and warning the public of the dangers faced on North Carolina’s roads.​​ This was the first time drones had been used to monitor a disaster in the state, and the first time in the U.S. that they were used at such a scale.

The award was presented earlier today at Southern Association of State Highway and Transportations Officials conference in Savannah, Ga. The award was accepted on behalf of NCDOT by Director of Technical Services Chris Werner.

“Our ability to use drones and other new technologies made NCDOT even more effective at keeping the people of North Carolina safe after Hurricane Florence, and greatly aided the statewide recovery effort,” said NCDOT Aviation Director Bobby Walston. “The incredible teamwork and ingenuity it took for this operation to be a success undoubtedly saved lives and will serve as a blueprint for future disaster response efforts.”

Sponsored by AASHTO, AAA and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the America’s Transportation Awards competition was created to showcase groundbreaking projects delivered every year by state departments of transportation.

This year, 39 state departments of transportation submitted 81 projects for consideration across three categories. As a regional winner, NCDOT’s UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) Hurricane Florence Response is considered for inclusion in the competition’s “Top 12,” which will be announced Aug. 23. The Top 12 compete for two top awards—the Grand Prize, chosen by an independent panel of judges, and the People’s Choice Award, determined by the public through online voting. Both top prizes will be awarded in October at AASHTO’s Annual Meeting in St. Louis.

This is the second major award won by NCDOT for drone use following Hurricane Florence. NCDOT was also recognized for its Hurricane Florence response by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International in May.