Drones, Smartphones to Be Used to Assess Flood Damage; Cabinet Office Approves Tech to Speed up Disaster Certificate Issuance

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The use of drones and smartphones will be allowed in assessing the extent of damage caused to houses inundated when rainwater exceeds the capacity of drainage facilities and overflows on the ground.

The use of such digital technology became available on May 31, when the Cabinet Office revised its operational guidelines for how municipalities are to certify disaster damage, aiming to speed up the issuance of disaster certificates so that victims can rebuild their lives smoothly.

Camera-equipped drones can photograph a disaster area from the sky so a 3D map of the terrain and buildings can be created with a computer, while a smartphone app can be used to analyze photographs of the walls of a damaged house to measure the depth of flooding and determine the extent of damage.

Previously, municipal officials would visit a disaster site and inspect the damage to the walls and floors before issuing a disaster certificate, which is required for the victims to receive public assistance. A lack of manpower has delayed the inspections, resulting in certificates taking a long time to be issued. The use of drones and smartphones is expected to solve this problem.

Between October and February, tests of the technology were conducted in Ibaraki and Akita prefectures, both of which had suffered flooding earlier last year. The depth of inundation calculated by the technology was not significantly different from the actual depth, and the Cabinet Office deemed it practical and decided to bring it into general use. The office will offer training sessions to municipalities in hopes of encouraging more places to adopt it.