ATLANTA — After Cyclone Pam devastated the small Pacific nation of Vanuatu, Lockheed Martin’s Indago quad roto unmanned aerial vehicle was used to survey damage for two weeks.
After the cyclone hit Vanuatu in March as a Category 5 storm with winds over 200 mph, the country’s government and the World Bank asked Heliwest, an Australian aircraft operator, to send its Indago vertical-take off and landing system to assist the nation.
“We were being tasked to go to some of the worst affected areas,” said Luke Aspinall, manager of special operations for Heliwest. “We were observing anything from 80 to 100 percent destruction of the existing shelter” in some urban areas.
A single Indago aircraft surveyed 50 sites across nine islands and performed 126 sorties over 12 days. It collected aerial photographs and videos and created maps of some of the most damaged areas, he said May 4 during a phone call with reporters
“We were able to map large areas very quickly,” he said. It also worked in tandem with fixed-wing aircraft.
Indago weighs five pounds, has endurance of more than 45 minutes and a range of three miles. It can operate during the day or at night.
Because of the drone’s small form, it gave the team flexibility as they traveled across the country, he said.
“Our logistics footprint was pretty much three backpacks,” he said. “With the different payloads that we had with us, it was actually able to perform what other teams were using three or four aircraft to do.”