January 1, 1970

FLYMOTION Responds to Hurricane Ian

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When Hurricane Ian formed over the Caribbean, few imagined it to be a historic storm for the state of Florida. Assumptions were quickly corrected when Ian made landfall in the U.S., striking southwest Florida with wind speeds reaching 140 mph and record storm surges of 7 feet.  

Large areas of Lee County, including Fort Myers, Cape Coral, and Sanibel Island, were heavily damaged and left without power. Furthermore, many communities found themselves stranded after bridges and causeways were washed away during the storm. In the face of these circumstances, local public safety agencies quickly became aware of the enormous task ahead.

Numerous public safety, private, and volunteer organizations poured into the area to assist, including FLYMOTION. Deploying with a response team from the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, we quickly mobilized most of our assets, including our TRIDENT mobile command vehicle, connectivity systems, UAVs, UGVs, and USVs.

After coordinating the Pasco and Lee County command staff, we deployed drone teams tasked with mapping, overwatch, and targeted surveillance. We focused on areas most affected by the hurricane, like Bonita Beach, Fort Myers Beach, and Pine Island. 

One of our mapping missions covered Little Hickory Island a community in Bonita Beach devastated by the waves and high winds. Starting on the island's north end and moving south, one of our teams collected data on over 300 acres, covering a large majority of the damage.

Map of the damage on Little Hickory Island (left) layered over Google Earth data (right).

Bearing the brunt of the damage, Pine Island is part of a chain of barrier islands that is currently without power, cell service, or water. Additionally, the bridge connecting it to the city of Cape Coral was destroyed by the storm surge, further complicating logistics. As a result, members of the FLYMOTION team had to reach the island on a boat operated by the Lee County Sheriff's Department. Driving the entirety of the island, they documented several neighborhoods and helped local law enforcement search the coastline for deceased individuals. 

Arrival on Pine Island
Bridge at Matlacha destroyed by storm
UAS ops on Pine Island

Following the first several days after the storm, response gave way to recovery efforts. FLYMOTION focused on supporting efforts to stabilize various areas around the county. This included combating the rise of looting in affluent neighborhoods. Many perpetrators were posing as insurance adjusters or infiltrating on boats at night to get past patrols. Equipped with thermal cameras on TRIDENT, personnel, and drones, the team conducted night operations to provide persistent ISR for local law enforcement. Having both fixed and aerial platforms ______

Honored to have served in this capacity so far, FLYMOTION is eager to continue assisting in any way possible. As the deployment goes on, FLYMOTION will aim to enable continuity of operation for partner agencies and support decision-makers in stabilizing and rebuilding southwest Florida.

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