The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is revising its regulations regarding civilian drone aircraft traffic over the flood-stricken areas affected by Hurricane Harvey.

On August 27, the FSA warned “unauthorized drone operators…may be subject to significant fines if they interfere with emergency response operations.”

The agency released a statement later in the week “approv(ing) news gathering drones,” as well as drones used by companies seeking to survey the flood damage.

Some civilian drone pilots will also be allowed to work with search and rescue teams to locate survivors in places previously inaccessible to boats or helicopters.

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Allstate, one of the country’s biggest insurance carriers, announced it will launch thousands of drone missions to survey the damage and collect data for claims.

AT&T also announced it will utilize up to 25 drones to assess damage to cellular service towers and other communications infrastructure components.

The FAA is still enforcing a Temporary Flight Restrictions order for non-approved drone flights.

Any civilian drone flights must be coordinated with the System Operations Support Center (SOSC) and must comply with the restrictions outlined in the Notice to Airmen (NOTAM), which requires drone flights to be “supporting a response, recovery or reporting-related activity.”

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DroneUp CEO Tom Walker said his company’s smartphone app to pilot drone aircraft “was developed to provide support in the case of natural or man-made disasters, and we believe it will be extremely helpful.”

“Pilots can upload mission images or video that can be relayed to authorities and first responders directing (search and rescue) operations in the impact zones,” Walker provided in a press statement.


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