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Drones in Humanitarian Action Case Study No.14: Using drones to create maps and assess building damage in Ecuador

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A magnitude-7.8 earthquake struck Ecuador on 16 April 2016, causing over 660 deaths, thousands of injuries and widespread destruction across the north-west part of the country. The most severe damage was concentrated in the provinces of Manabí and Esmeraldas along the northern coastline. In response, the Ecuadorian Army and AeroVison carried out missions every day, using drones to assess the level of damage in cities and towns and producing maps to determine priority areas of intervention to support shelter reconstruction.

Background

After the worst earthquake in 40 years hit Ecuador, a state of emergency was declared in the six coastal provinces. In the especially hard-hit city of Pedernales, in Manabí province, a state of disaster was declared. Rescue operations and the search for survivors began immediately after the earthquake and continued for several days. Thousands of people were left homeless, with homes either damaged or completely destroyed. Experts estimate it will take years for the hardest hit areas to recover and that rebuilding will cost up to €2.6 billion (US $3 billion).

To support the response, several private sector drone pilots deployed to Ecuador in the days following the earthquake. AeroVision Canada, a professional unmanned aerial vehicle operator, partnered with the charity GlobalMedic to support Ecuador’s National Secretariat for Risk Management by capturing aerial imagery, developing maps and helping assess the damage in some of the worst-affected regions.