6.2 High Wind Damage Assessment of the June 12th Tornado Outbreak in the Northern High Plains Utilizing Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV)

Tuesday, 9 January 2018: 1:45 PM
Room 13AB (ACC) (Austin, Texas)
Melissa A. Wagner, Arizona State Univ., Tempe, AZ; and C. Hahn, R. Cox, and R. Doe

Rapid damage surveys, performed with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), can complement ground surveys of tornado damage. Use of this technology can access impassable or remote locations, produce high-resolution imagery because of the low flying height, and provide multi-spectral imagery for damaged vegetation. Imagery analysis of high resolution and multi-spectral imagery could be used to better discern tornado damage and path. However, limitations may still exist as a result of equipment and policy restrictions and the sensitive space of damaged areas. This research presents two objectives. The first objective seeks to examine how high resolution and multispectral imagery obtained from UAV surveys could better capture the extent of the tornado path and associated damage. The second objective discusses lessons learned and best practices for future work of UAV in damage surveys. This study investigates the June 12, 2017 tornado outbreak in Eastern Wyoming and Western Nebraska, focusing on the towns of Carpenter and Bayard, respectively. Multispectral analysis and change detection methods are performed to assess tornadic wind damage. These results are compared with National Weather Service (NWS) ground surveys as well as rotational track data to confirm the accuracy and extent of the tornado path. The results identify previously unseen damages and help quantify impacts at a much local level. The findings of this research demonstrate how UAVs can provide high quality data for meteorological verification and can be used by to property owners, insurance industries, structural engineers, and emergency managers to aid in the recovery process.
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