MIDDLETOWN, N.Y. (October 30, 2017) – A Middletown veteran who spent weeks volunteering in Texas and Puerto Rico in the aftermath of destructive hurricanes is discovering how his drones-based training and security business can provide critical help during natural disasters.
Tony Reid, a corrections officer at Rikers Island and a technology buff, started Drone Tech UAS last year as a way to encourage adolescents to focus on a positive subject like technology.
The company now also provides aerial security coverage to low-staffed law enforcement agencies and local jails that need extra sets of eyes. It operates from Middletown in space provided by The Accelerator, a small-business incubator run by Orange County Industrial Development Agency.
Two months ago, Reid was on a business call with a partner in Texas when he learned about the extent of the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey. Nearly 50 inches of rain fell in parts of Texas, flooding neighborhoods and destroying homes, and causing damage estimated at $180 billion.
Within days, Reid was in Texas, working with the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) groups. The agencies were seeking help from licensed drone operators to assess flood-related damage and hazardous oil and chemical spills. Typically, military and government helicopters survey damage, but most aircrafts were deployed in search and rescue missions, making outside help critical.
“Once I learned of the destruction, I couldn’t sit back,” said Reid, who is also an Army reservist and made two trips to Texas for a total of three weeks. “The water came and ripped everything apart. The devastation was insane.”
Using drones to help the public has been on Reid’s mind for some time. Working with The Accelerator, Drone Tech UAS is gearing up to use drones to deliver defibrillators and other life-saving equipment to patients in Orange County facing an emergency. This way, help can come to them faster than an ambulance.
In Texas, Reid flew drones four to six hours a day to assess damage, then downloaded data and provided it to government agencies. After charging the drones using generators, he would be back at the job.
Reid also worked with a nonprofit on stripping down damaged homes of veterans, police officers and nurses, and preparing them for rebuilding. This helped lower the financial stress on those who did not have flood insurance.
Weeks after returning to Middletown, Reid was on a plane to Puerto Rico where Hurricane Maria had left a trail of destruction. He went initially to check on his wife’s family who couldn’t be contacted. But Reid soon connected with a military unit and the American Red Cross to begin helping residents reeling from the impact of the hurricane.
The island looked like a bomb had gone off there, said Reid. Trees were stripped of leaves, mudslides were common, roads were cut off and littered with broken trees, and utility poles were down. Whole swathes of areas were cut off from the capital and each other.
While Reid delivered water and food to hard-to-reach areas, his efforts were especially meaningful when he used drones to locate people in inaccessible areas. He took requests from anxious relatives on Facebook, sent drones out to search, and provided information about families and the state of their homes in Puerto Rico.
Drones helped pinpoint areas that were truly at risk and locations where people were trapped.
“This has been a very valuable learning experience, especially for future natural disasters,” said Reid. “Drones are a force multiplier. Some deaths in Puerto Rico could have been avoided if we had used drones earlier. We could have located injured people and flown in medical equipment to them.”
About The Accelerator
The Accelerator, strategically located in New Windsor at Stewart International Airport with proximity to major interstates, is a certified New York State incubator focused on bringing manufacturing back to the mid-Hudson Valley. Powered by the Orange County Industrial Development Agency, The Accelerator works to attract manufacturing-based businesses in the areas of fashion design and production, bottling, food and beverage safety testing, advanced technology and more by providing below-market occupancy costs, workforce training, mentoring programs, easy access to experienced professionals and a high-tech plug-and-play environment with SMARTT Pods and a host of other resources. For more information, visit theaccelerator.business.