Anatomy of a Recon Team

Mike Lee

Mike Lee, a native of Chicago, graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a degree in Creative Writing. At LMU, Mike developed international and domestic volunteer trips and served as the Volunteer Coordinator for the Student Veterans Organization. Mike’s professional background is in advertising and marketing, and has experience in executing large print and digital campaigns for non-profit and tourism clients. He lives in Los Angeles where he thinks a lot about dogs, bourbon, and the Chicago Bears.

On April 26, we deployed a four-man recon team out of LAX to Kathmandu. While most TR Recon teams focus on gathering intelligence and providing input on further deployments, the Tenzing Recon team has a slightly different focus.

While many agencies are focusing on search and rescue and life-saving operations, Team Rubicon is tackling the crippling lack of aerial imagery in the affected areas. Generally, disaster relief operations rely on satellite or fixed-wing aircraft imagery to provide up-to-date visuals of disaster zones, but storms and cloud cover are preventing good visuals.

Members of Team Rubicon participated in a UAV exercise in Grand Junction, CO in February 2015.
Members of Team Rubicon participated in a UAV exercise in Grand Junction, CO in February 2015.

To counter the weather and cloud cover, this team is equipped with UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) to provide wide-area visual assessments. With the support from a team of UAV operators and analysts from our partners at HaloDrop, we’re able to take critical imagery gathered by UAVs. Then with software and engineering support from our data platform partner, Palantir Technologies, we’re able to overlay the aerial imagery on  top of existing map data, geo-rectify it, create an updated and detailed map of the disaster zone, and begin to quantify the scope of damage and drive resources to the areas of greatest need. Read more on how our team is coordinating with the Humanitarian UAV Network to utilize drones in Nepal here.

With updated maps, imagery, and real-time data, Team Rubicon’s medical teams will be able to identify which areas require the immediate care and most importantly, these maps and data will be shared with other relief agencies, improving the overall response to the people of Nepal.

2014.02.21_UAV exercise_JACKSON-1

Additionally, the Recon team includes a Nepalese American physician and native speaker to assist with medical coordination and follow-on planning. Two teams are currently en route to Kathmandu and expected to touch down in the next 24 hours. Keep tabs on Operation: Tenzing by following Team Rubicon on Twitter.

  • Jennifer Dengler – PA

    Looking forward to the updates. Stay safe.

  • Benjamin Parry

    This is awesome. Do you guys know this guy?



  • kylaspringer

    I met this team in the airport while I was also en route to Nepal on behalf of an international NGO responding to the earthquake. Team Rubicon – Tenzing was so kind, giving me a dose of extra confidence as I embarked on my own journey there. Three cheers for an awesome group filled with fantastic people!