The Washington Post

Here’s a drone’s-eye view of the Napa Valley earthquake damage

After a 6.0-magnitude earthquake shook Northern California on Sunday, Evan Kilkus fired up his drone.

His mission: to document the powerful temblor’s extensive damage.

Kilkus used his “quadcopter” to shoot close-up aerial footage of tall buildings with crumbling exteriors, cracked glass, sunken roofs and fallen rubble. Some of the footage would not be easily or safely accessible for photographers or camera crews, given the unstable infrastructure of some of the buildings.

With the drone, Kilkus was also able to access views of buildings that were taped off to the public, such as the U.S. Post Office.

He uploaded a nearly seven-minute video to YouTube on Sunday, and explained: “This video is intended for educational purposes to show builders and building owners across the world the results of this earthquake. … This video is also intended to show how a quadcopter / drone can be used to help identify hazards and assess damage in this situation.”

The video, which the Los Angeles Times reposted on Tuesday, was filmed with care and caution, Kilkus wrote on YouTube.

“I was very cautious while flying this quadcopter,” he wrote. “I did not fly over any large crowds, and kept the device close to me at all times to maximize my control. Often I first asked if it would be ok if I filmed.”

He said he was denied once: “The only time I was asked not to film was at Target (for some reason?), so I stopped.”

Videos like this are becoming increasingly popular; YouTube offers more than 430,000 results for “drone footage.” Part of the reason is the low cost. You can find unmanned aerial vehicles equipped with cameras for less than $100 online.

Thomas Johnson is a reporter.

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