Drones impressed thousands of people watching live streams on Facebook and Google last night. Helicopters were not audibly present on the live streams and it’s unlikely due to the conditions that a helicopter would have been deployed.
At least 2 people would have died if not for drones that were operated by UH and civil defence. A lava pool (pitch pond) ruptured sending a high-speed flow gushing into Leilani estates, drone operators were able to guide by drone and cell phone to a safe exit route through brush and forest. In the over 100 years of recorded history and thousands of Hawaiian history events such as these emerging in communities with this scope and scale are factually rare; the 1955 and 2014 flow events were much smaller.
At any rate, drones are proving their worth and capabilities, providing life-saving assistance and imagery where manned flight would be too dangerous due to ash, and convection currents.