AR.Drone inspects quake-damaged NZ church

Earlier this week, a serious earthquake struck the New Zealand city of Christchurch, already suffering after a massive quake that hit the region in February. This time around, the beautiful Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament was damaged so badly that engineers were unable to get close enough to properly assess the damage.

The view inside the Christchurch Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament

The AR.Drone's perspective of the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament

Instead of risking sending a human into the century-old building, the creative Kiwis came up with another solution – the NZ$500 AR.Drone, from Parrot.

Yep, the same technology that we checked out at E3 was used less than a week later in a surprising real-world application. The drone, controlled from the outside of the building by an engineer’s iPad, used its onboard camera to show the extent of the damage.

The resulting video is amazing, showing shattered windows, piles of debris and mounds of dust – and the fact it’s completely silent makes it all the more eerie.

Opus engineer Nicholas Dawe commented to [surl=]local media[/surl]:

Even if we lost it in the building ‘cause we’re never quite sure with the wi-fi range or the battery life, but if it turned out to be a suicide mission it’s a $500 one not a far more serious one.

The Catholic cathedral was not the only holy building in the city to be damaged in the quake – the nearby Anglican cathedral is now scarcely standing, with one wall almost completely gone and the feature stained-glass window destroyed.

Dean of ChristChurch Cathedral, Peter Beck, tries to stay optimistic:

We will rebuild there’s no doubt about that, whether we need to deconstruct the building, whether we have parts we can rebuild on we just don’t know that yet, there are so many things we don’t, and there are so many things we don’t know we don’t know.

For more information about what Parrot are up to, in addition to helping out engineers, here’s our video interview from E3.

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