Advanced Drone and Mobile Technologies to Assist Emergency Managers

School of Computing and Engineering Faculty Member Leads Project to Increase Real-time Emergency Response  

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A team of specialists from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, University of Missouri Extension and University of Missouri-Columbia are working jointly on a grant-supported project to develop drone technology that will assist emergency management directors (EMDs) by providing real-time disaster information.

The project, led by UMKC Associate Professor of Civil Engineering, Dr. ZhiQiang Chen, will use imaging drones and smart applications to send images to a remote cloud infrastructure for GIS (geographic information system) integration and advanced analytics in real time. Essentially, their technology would collect and categorize drone images of disaster or emergency situations to facilitate better response efforts.

The upcoming solar eclipse on Aug. 21 offers a unique opportunity for the research team to test their collection methods and software. The drone-based technologies can accurately assess damage and safety concerns as well as the most effective access routes to persons in need of support.

“Thousands of people are expected to travel to St. Joseph to observe the eclipse,” said Chen. “It is expected that Interstate 29 and US Highway 36 will be at a complete standstill during the eclipse. This will also create other traffic problems that could restrict emergency response efforts.”

Prior to the Aug. 21 eclipse, the team of specialists hosted a technology-based emergency response workshop with a focus on smart drone technologies. Workshop attendees included local registered pilots, private sectors, first responders, and emergency officials. Contents of the workshop included drone technologies, FAA regulations, disaster scene analysis, and more importantly, recognition of practical gaps for implementing advanced disaster response technologies. Attendees will also work with the research team in monitoring during the eclipse.

This project is funded by a Missouri Extension Broader Impacts Network (BIN) award; part of funding and drone support also come from the UMKC Provost’s Strategic Awards. The cloud infrastructure is provided by Microsoft through the Microsoft Azure Sponsorship.

About the UMKC School of Computing and Engineering
Located in one of the nation’s largest engineering communities, the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) School of Computing and Engineering prepares students to work in cutting-edge engineering, computer science and information technology careers. SCE’s internationally recognized faculty prepare students for today’s competitive job market by providing a curriculum that includes the latest technology and business trends, as well as a comprehensive education in each field’s theory and fundamental practice.

About the University of Missouri-Kansas City
The University of Missouri-Kansas City, one of four University of Missouri campuses, is a public university serving more than 16,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students. UMKC engages with the community and economy based on its six-part mission: placing student success at the center; leading in life and health sciences; advancing urban engagement; excelling in visual and performing arts; embracing diversity; and promoting research and economic development. For more information about UMKC, visit You can also find us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, see us on Instagram and watch us on YouTube. Read our students’ stories at #UMKCGoingPlaces.

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