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Former Navy pilot helps Hurricane Matthew relief with drone startup

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Flying drones is more than a hobby for Quentin Wheeler. It used to be how he served his country as a pilot in the Navy and now it’s how he makes a living.

“I used drones on the battle field managing them, so I knew that drones were giving us actionable data that we would not make a decision without having the intel from drones, so I saw the evolution that drones were making in that aspect,” Wheeler said.

He started his business, Applied Drone Systems, anticipating a need for drone footage and information in the commercial world. It’s been flying high now for more than a year.

Wheeler's work typically involves surveying and siting local construction projects but when a natural disaster comes like Hurricane Matthew, that's when drone footage becomes much more versatile for first responders and folks trying to restore power.

Wheeler was recruited by a networking business for drone pilots called Aerial Applications. His job was to travel to Savannah, Georgia, and Tybee Island to check out the damage from the sky after the hurricane made landfall.

“They can now make one trip with the right people, right equipment, so it would help restore the services to the people of Savannah and Tybee Island,” he said.

Being able to map out the entire area and identify problems from the sky, crews were able to restore power more quickly and efficiently. For Wheeler, it all comes down to service.

“It truly brought me back to some of my more rewarding experiences in the military,” Wheeler said.