In the wake of this week’s tragic bridge collapse in Baltimore, officials have turned to uncrewed systems to help in search and rescue efforts and to collect images and video footage of the site. 

According to news reports, public safety officials used sonar and underwater drones to search the waters below the Francis Scott Key bridge for vehicles and missing persons in the hours after the accident. As reported in Commercial UAV News, public safety and emergency response professionals have increasingly deployed drones to aid in these types of operations in recent years because of the efficiency, accuracy, and safety enabled by these systems.

In addition to helping with search and rescue efforts, drones are being used to collect valuable visual information about the crash site. Following the bridge collapse, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released video footage of the site that was captured by drone. In cases such as these, public safety agencies often use drones equipped with sophisticated cameras to fly over sites to collect images and data that can be used to assess damage and better understand the causes and impact of an accident.

Six workers are missing and presumed dead following the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge over the mouth of the Patapsco River. A massive 985-foot cargo ship lost power just before crashing into the bridge at about 1:30 a.m. on Tuesday, March 26. The investigation is ongoing.