The latest buzz at the Department of Interior

A drone flying over a wildfire. Photo by the Bureau of Land Management.

Drones have proven to be a vital tool for organizations across the government for achieving mission success. And the one federal department leading the charge expects the technology to play an even bigger role in gathering and analyzing data.

The Department of Interior (DOI) is one of the most advanced agencies on the drone front with its UAV disaster response and natural phenomenon reconnaissance programs. And by the end of this year, the department will grow to 180 trained operators–a number that has tripled in only half a year.

This rapid growth is important for the IT sector as the department looks for innovative solutions to help it process and analyze the data it gathers from drones.

How DOI manages drones

First, let’s take a look at where drones live within DOI. The technology is managed under the Office of Aviation Services, led by Mark Bathrick. The former Navy pilot is a huge advocate for drone technology and has said they provide DOI with four core functions: science, safety, savings and service.

Drones are less limited than humans in performing a host of different tasks ranging from national security to crop scouting. DOI uses more than 250 devices, which have all sorts of benefits, including being able to report far more data than satellites and provide more efficiency than manned helicopters for everyday tasks.

The technology, however, has also had its setbacks. A little more than two years ago, the National Park Service (NPS) banned drones from all National Parks as it became apparent that the technology can disturb the natural order of a park’s ecosystem. Drones have been known to scare off nursing birds from their nests, as well as separating big horn sheep adults from their young in Zion National Park.

NPS also reported that the unmanned aerial vehicles had disturbed park visitors’ experiences on several occasions at different national parks. The ban is not finalized and remains temporary until the NPS creates a long-term policy for the fairly new and misunderstood technology.

Where IT companies can help

DOI is looking at other ways to advance drone technology but could use private sector innovation. If your company has big data solutions or visualization tools, there’s a good chance that the Office of Aviation Services can use it to actuate the collected data for meaningful use—a challenge for most of government.

DOI will also need to invest in database tools and storage devices to support the influx of data from the expected proliferation of drones. While the government is advancing quickly with drone technology, there’s a good amount of time before the federal space is fully saturated. Technology companies with any piece of a drone framework will want to not only target organizations currently using drones, but also find room in an organization that can implement a drone program to advance their mission.

Want to learn more about DOI trends and how drones will shape the future of government IT?  Reach out to your account manager at immixGroup to connect with the Market Intelligence team.

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