Hurricane Ida brought some of the worst destruction our state has seen in over a decade. As recovery efforts continue, drones are proving to be a valuable technology in building back Louisiana.

Just a day after Ida struck Louisiana, President Biden announced that he asked the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to allow utility companies “to operate the use of surveillance drones to assess Ida’s damage to energy infrastructure.” The FAA allowing drones to operate freely over Louisiana has since helped turbo-charge recovery efforts.

Drones have improved dramatically with the inclusion of technologies that allow high-resolution recording equipment and pilots no longer needing their drone in the line of sight. Advancements have allowed utility and communications companies to assess damage safely and quickly. The construction industry also uses drones to assess damage to roofs or other structures.

Drones have been employed extensively by other institutions in similar ways.  Florida State University’s Center for Disaster Risk Policy uses drones to assess damage in the wake of storms across the country. Director David Merrick said, “One of the big challenges after any major event is about where to send resources first… so answering those questions in a faster convenient way helps minimize mistakes and ensures the right communities get the right supplies and the right help faster.”

Here in Louisiana, Nicholls State’s own drone program has been awarded for its work, including its use of drones in studying the coast for coastal restoration. Now, drones are being used to help rebuild other parts of Louisiana. But how can Louisiana make sure we are on the cutting edge of the drone industry?

Louisiana took a big step during the last legislative session by creating a drone task force. This task force is required to make recommendations on how to improve the legal climate for drones to operate in Louisiana. One area ripe for reform is that of easements. Easements are the legal right to pilot drones above property. Reform of easements would allow for more testing of new drone technology as well as make room for services like drone delivery.

With its frequent storms, drones can have a place in Louisiana’s future. With the right reforms, drones can help not just with recovery, but play an important role in growing our economy.