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The US Air National Guard has deployed medium-altitude drones to help airlift and search-and-rescue units find victims in the hurricane disaster-stricken areas. The Guard is flying unarmed MQ-1 Predators and MQ-9 Reaper drones, as well as manned RC-26 mobile intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance planes, to scour areas affected by the hurricanes according to Air Force Lt. Gen Scott Rice, director of the Air National Guard.

“Taking a picture of, or a look, or a visibility of what has just happened is very, very important,” Rice told Military.com . “We have enough assets to rescue and help everyone over time, but we don’t have enough assets to rescue everyone right now,” he  said, emphasizing that surveillance is key to analysing what areas may be “bad versus critical.”

“The unmanned platforms give us great assessment on which areas have lost infrastructure, which haven’t, and they influence and help us with a response,” the general said.

Rice said the drones are taking snapshots of the scene below as they’re airborne, not watching singular events occurring in flooded or damaged areas.

“Instead of ISR, we do IAA — Incident Awareness Assessment. A way to say, we’re using the same piece of equipment but we’re using it on a totally different focus…to find and save lives as opposed to find and protect ourselves from the enemy,” he said.

When asked how many remotely piloted aircraft are often deployed Rice said few — definitely “less than a dozen.”

Not least important is the information processing, which is being carried out at the DCGS – the Air Force’s primary intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) planning and direction, collection, processing and exploitation, analysis and dissemination (PCPAD) weapon system. It connects multiple intelligence platforms and sensors, producing  actionable intelligence from data collected by a variety of sensors on the UAVs and other ISR platforms, according to the US Air Force website.

The airmen use unclassified processing, analysis and dissemination equipment, commercially available software and nonsecure networks. They are capable of processing and analyzing information from multiple sources, including commercial satellites, Civil Air Patrol aircraft, and UH-72 Lakota and RC-26 Metroliners, according to defense.gov.

Intelligence imagery analysts from the US Air National Guard are supporting hurricane recovery efforts by providing processing, analysis and dissemination of imagery and geospatial products.

Incident awareness and assessment support provides civil authorities in the affected regions information needed to make critical decisions as efficiently and effectively as possible.