VA man develops app to send 'missions' to drone pilots

VA man develops app to send 'missions' to drone pilots

(WWBT) - A Virginia man developed an app to send "missions" to drone pilots to help first responders during disasters. Pilots, based on their qualifications, would accept missions and fly in to conduct search and survey efforts.

The DroneUp app shows you the drones flying over your area in real time.

While we all love a beautiful drone shot of the James River, Tom Walker, of Chesapeake, figures these same hobbyists can use their talents and their toys to save lives.

"I know the value of bringing a thousand drones to an area like Houston, Texas right now," said Walker.

He knows because he's done it the hard way by plane and boat, coordinating search and rescue operations with the U.S. Navy.  We talked with Walker via Skype, along with his marketing coordinator, Jim Harenchar.  They say the DroneUp app will send out mission alerts to volunteer pilots, if 10 pilots respond, the app will sort them based on their training and FAA certifications to select the most suitable pilot for the mission.

"Well, Drew is at the top of the list because he's got the most hours. He's FAA certified, so for the most needed requirements, we need him for this," said Harenchar.

They're adding pilots fast.  The app isn't even two days old, and they're adding more than 100 pilots an hour.  Walker says there are three million drones in the U.S. right now, and almost all of them are people like you and me.  He's working with the federal government to develop a strategy to use hobbyists for these life-saving missions.

"Every week, one life is saved by a drone. Now, that's the ones that are reported, and almost all of those are by volunteers.  So you're always excited to go in and do something with this hobby of yours," said Walker.

Walker says events like the Harvey flooding are important, but he's working to bring this to a local level.  Police could report a missing pet, and a drone pilot in your neighborhood could be the one who finds your pet for you.  Right now, the project is working with the FAA to get the proper clearance to get started.

Copyright 2017 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved