Florida State University students use drones to map Panama City Beach

Published: Jun. 25, 2021 at 7:39 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - There’s no better way of seeing a city than from the sky. A group of Florida State University students is using unmanned aircraft systems, also known as drones, to do just that.

“Out here working on a project to do some mapping. We’re kind of looking at some critical infrastructure in the pre-disaster context,” FSU student leader Sierra Perna said.

On Friday, students took aerial shots of Panama City Beach, getting a birds-eye perspective of some important buildings. This is a key tool if disaster strikes.

“It’s just like it’s your house, taking pictures of all your household goods in case a robbery happens or you have a fire. This way you’ve got footage in advance to kind of say hey this is what it looked like before,” Bay County Emergency Management Division Chief Frankie Lumm said.

Drones aren’t just helpful for getting pre-disaster video, sometimes it’s one of the only ways to see damage afterward.

“Because there’s a lot of areas we can’t get into because of flooding, trees down, that sort of thing, and the drones give us the capability to go in and do that,” Lumm said.

Officials said Bay County has used drones for storms in the past, like during Hurricane Michael. He said oftentimes, FEMA would use that footage instead of having to come out to the property.

Perna said the drone video is also beneficial when deciding how to rebuild moving forward.

“Gives a really good context to decision-makers when it comes to preparedness and mitigation for any sort of future events that might happen,” Perna said.

Bay County Emergency Management officials said they hope to get drone footage of Mexico Beach and Lynn Haven in the coming months. They hope to show people you can come back and rebuild stronger after a storm.

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