Following the devastation of Cyclone Pam, the Vanuatu Government and the World Bank contacted Australian operator Heliwest, who deployed Lockheed Martin’s Indago small unmanned aerial system (UAS) to conduct a rapid damage assessment. The Indago collected imagery of the damage over a two-week mission and provided the data to operators, without risking a life.
Photo courtesy of Heliwest
“The Indago proved to be the ideal platform for the mission because of its flexibility and small logistics footprint,” said Luke Aspinall, manager of special operations for Heliwest. “Heliwest operators were able to deploy a full system by commercial flight with no further support required, while on the ground the Indago allowed us to remain independent and mobile. Our crew were able to get to where we were needed quickly, deploying by a number of methods during the mission including police patrol boats, zodiacs, quadbikes, cars, four-wheel drives, regional flights and light helicopters.”
Indago provides operators with an immediate eye-in-the-sky for 360-degree surveillance of an area. It weighs five pounds, has an endurance of more than 45 minutes, and at a range of up to three miles when used with its handheld controller. Everything required to operate the system can be transported in a backpack.
Once deployed, the Indago provided Heliwest operators the capability of several different systems in one package, said Aspinall. Operators could field a mapping capability with similar coverage of a larger fixed-wing system due to the Indago’s endurance and weather tolerances – without the requirement for large clear areas for launch and recovery.