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Drones, smartphones deployed to assess water damage; Cabinet approves technology to speed up issuance of disaster certificates


Yomiuri Shimbun archive photo
A cabinet office building in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo

Drones and smartphones may be used to assess the extent of damage to flooded homes when rainwater exceeds the capacity of the sewer system and overflows onto the ground.

The use of such digital technology became possible on May 31, when the Cabinet revised its operational guidelines for the certification of disaster damage by municipalities. The aim was to speed up the issuance of disaster certificates so that victims can rebuild their lives smoothly.

Drones with cameras can photograph a disaster area from the air, so that a computer can create a 3D map of the terrain and buildings. A smartphone app can analyze photos of the walls of a damaged house to measure the depth of the flooding and determine the extent of the damage.

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

Tests of the technology were conducted between October and February in Ibaraki and Akita prefectures, both of which had suffered flooding earlier last year. The depth of the flood calculated by the technology did not differ significantly from the actual depth, and the Cabinet Office deemed it practical and decided to put it into general use. The office will offer training sessions to municipalities in the hope of encouraging more places to adopt it.

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