NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - A drone division of a Nacogdoches environmental consulting firm is taking off in a big way.
The Hydrex Drone Division has a growing client list following hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
"This is one of our fixed-wing drones," said Clayton Collier, Hydrex Environmental's general manager and senior environmental scientist.
It's a bit more sophisticated than the drones soon to be discovered under Christmas trees.
"It's only a pound and half and made out of Styrofoam, but there are some expensive parts in there," Collier said.
That includes a GPS that's programmed to set the aircraft on its route.
"You tell it the area you want to fly," Collier said. "You launch the drone. And start the mission."
The mission lately for Hydrex Environmental is collecting aerial images of hurricane assessment. That process goes fairly quickly. The time-consuming work takes place back in the office. The goal is a 48-hour turnaround for clients.
"We use software to stitch all the aerial photographs together creating one ortho-mosaic," Collier said. "From that, we triangulate and you get 3-D, and you get a really high resolution three-dimensional model of your project site."
Collier was intrigued by a landfill site in Florida where a half a million-dollar tarp was heavily damaged by Hurricane Irma.
"This is a pre-hurricane view of the tarp," Collier said.
Then he compared it to a photo that showed what's left of it after hurricane force winds came through. The drone's bird's eye images are designed to validate the insurance claim.
"The old saying, 'a picture is worth a thousand words', is no different," Collier said. "Aerial photography of a damaged site goes a long ways with the insurance companies."
Hydrex Environmental expects drones to reach new heights as additional uses for the tool are discovered. Hydrex' Drone Division began in 2015, and it already makes up 20 percent of the company's business.
Much of Hydrex Drone Division's field work of hurricane assessment is complete. Now time is spent returning to the field to show progress of restoration efforts.