HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – A researcher from the University of Alabama – Huntsville (UAH) was part of a team that recently located a stranded boater in Florida while helping with Hurricane Ian disaster response.

Casey Calamaio is a research engineer in the Rotorcraft Systems Engineering and Simulation Center (RSESC) at UAH. Calamaio is also a 1st Lt. for Civil Air Patrol (CAP) and works as the Alabama Wing Director for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), commonly known as a drone.

UAH said Calamaio joined a team from Missouri’s CAP wing and was helping to conduct several different missions when they found the stranded boater. Calamaio helped in the efforts by flying the drone and being an expert in geospatial matters.

“This was as real as it gets when it comes to UAS in an emergency response situation. We arrived in Florida during a period of the disaster response where it wasn’t just clean up.”

CAP 1st Lt. Casey Calamaio

The team’s missions included reconnaissance, aerial mapping, missing person searches, and searches for debris, collapsed structures or capsized boats.

Photo: UAH

Data from the missions were sent to the Missouri Task Force One geospatial team that was working with FEMA and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s (NGA) Expeditionary Operations Team. From there, they would run search missions using information teams like Calamaio’s had found.

Calamaio has been a CAP UAS mission pilot for around three years. CAP’s Title 10 status allows the federal government to use civilians to multiply its force for disaster response.

UAH’s RSESC states they supported Calamaio’s part in the response and he was eligible for military leave to aid in these efforts.

UAH is the lead university in a research program that focuses on disaster response through the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence (ASSURE).

Calamaio is now a senior member of the Redstone Composite Squadron in Huntsville, on top of serving as a subject matter expert with the CAP National Technology Center’s UAS program and its geospatial program. He says that this role in the Alabama wing of UAS is one that he found aligns with the research he is a part of at UAH.

“There were FEMA task forces from all over the country who brought urban search and rescue capabilities and resources to support the relief effort,” Calamaio says. “It was an extremely enlightening opportunity to see firsthand, and I am encouraged to continue my volunteer work in this area and to pursue emergency management as a career path.”