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Florida CAP Wing provides Hurricane Hermine aerial imagery support to FEMA

  • Published
  • By Maj. Jeff Carlson
  • Florida Civil Air Patrol

Civil Air Patrol’s Florida Wing provided aerial photos of ground damage for the Federal Emergency Management Agency after Hurricane Hermine made landfall Thursday, Sept. 1


The wing has delivered more than 1,300 aerial images of Florida's Gulf Coast to FEMA Region IV.


As of its 10th day of active alert Saturday Sept. 3, the wing received taskings from FEMA Region IV, the state of Florida and 1st Air Force’s Air Force Rescue Coordination Center at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla.


The first photography assessment flight, launched Friday followed a coastal route from Tallahassee to Crystal River and produced more than 600 images. 


A second flight Saturday covered the coast from Punta Gorda to Crystal River after initially being delayed by adverse weather. That CAP plane, which took off early Saturday afternoon, was in the air just under four hours. 


“The typical summer afternoon weather pattern in Florida tends to create problems for aircrews,” said Maj. Richard Morrell, CAP aerial photographer. “However, our flight was beautiful.” 


CAP photographers are providing both nadir-angle and oblique-angle images. Nadir refers to a specific vertical direction point below the plane. Nadir images are easier to assemble into a mosaic, while oblique angle images can provide greater information about structural damage. 


“I was impressed by how much technology we were using in the small airplane,” Morrell said. “I was surrounded with boxes from the two camera systems, and up front the aircrew was using the GPS system with a preloaded flight plan. 


"I’ve been doing this for a while and even I was impressed.”


The wing-mounted VIRB camera system is the latest addition to CAP’s airborne imaging arsenal. The camera is remotely operated from inside the airplane using an electronic tablet. The camera provides the nadir-angle images at customer-requested intervals. 


Because the target is directly under the aircraft, each member of the aircrew plays a distinct role. The CAP volunteers have completed specialized training to ensure a coordinated effort.


Area Command for the wing, established under the direction of Lt. Col. Luis Garcia, coordinated activities at incident command posts at Pensacola, Punta Gorda and Ormond Beach.


In addition to the aerial imaging, the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center tasked the Florida Wing with tracking down two emergency locator transmitter beacon signals. 


After the first request Saturday morning, an aircrew operating from the Ormond Beach post tracked the signal to Cross City Airport. CAP ground team members were deployed to the site to find the aircraft owner and silence the beacon. 


A second ELT search was launched just after midnight this morning in the Fort Lauderdale area.