Drones can be highly impactful in the sector of firefighting. They are capable of providing rapid response and have excellent maneuverability. Drones have great potential in the firefighting domain as they can avoid many drawbacks of present fire detection systems that are based on satellites, manned aircraft, and ground equipment.
How can drones help fight fires?
A drone camera can perform a rapid 360-degree assessment of the burning structures and the thermal imaging cameras can see through the smoke for search and rescue missions. They can tell the temperature of the fire, pressure in an area, and wind direction to direct operations more accurately.
Drones can provide real-time situational awareness of the area, respond to changing situations, and guide the ground crew. They can also help in predicting the direction in which fire can spread by detecting fire hotspots. They can also help identify premature signs of a possible fire incident and give alerts.
Search & Rescue
Drones equipped with thermal sensors that use infrared radiation to help first responders locate heat signatures of humans and animals. They can be used to survey large hard to reach areas and look for victims, hence aiding in search and rescue missions. They can even deliver payloads of necessary supplies to the victims struck in the disaster location until the help arrives.
Protecting firefighting crew
Drones can help protect the firefighting crew by providing real-time information and monitor them if they are going in the right direction and if they are safe.
Post Fire or Disaster Assessment Survey
Drones can help in performing a post-disaster survey of the scene to access the damage and help the victims obtain insurance claims. Drones provide a 3D overview of the location and provide insightful data for insurance claims.
Drones can also help in identifying the remaining populations of animals in case of forest fires. Using the obtained data we can analyze that if the remaining animals have enough food to survive or if they are injured. For example, if in a forest fire the population of herbivores has declined, the forest department might need to bring in some deers to the for the large carnivores to survive.
The footage of the fire and the sensor data obtained can be utilized to train the firefighting personnel.
Fires can be detrimental to the plant life of the area, especially in the cases of forests. Drones can help in reforestation by shooting seed pods with nutrients accurately and quickly. They can help us analyze the areas that are good to plant.
Challenges for UAV Systems in Firefighting Operations
- Drone systems in firefighting scenarios are unregulated and can interfere with manned aircraft if they are too on site. Currently, there are no SOPs and hence aren’t preferred as of now. In such cases, it’s common for manned aircraft pilots to have visual blackouts due to smoke that can cause a loss in height and collision with the drone.
- In the case of forest fires, noise from drones can bother animals and lead to a stampede.
- The fires can easily reach up to 300-400 degrees celsius. Drones are highly unstable in thermals. Skilled pilots are required to control drones in such scenarios.
- Drones use LiPo batteries that are not designed to work in high pressures and heat. They might explode and lead to drone damage or even cause another fire.
- High temperatures also interfere with radio waves. In high temperatures, radio waves can bend like the wind that can cause a shift in telemetry reading.
Best Drones that to use for Fire Fighting
- Yuneec Typhoon H
- Freefly Alta 8
- DJI Inspire 1
- DJI Zenmuse XT
- DJI Zenmuse Z30
- DJI Matrice 210
- FlyByCopters Thermal Surveying X8
The Future of Firefighting Drones
Firefighting with drones has great scope commercially. More and more fire departments are using new technologies such as drones to improve mission results. Drones can prove to be a highly useful tool as they help carry out many of the tasks related to fire prevention, extinguishing, and recovery. Though integration is a challenge currently, the experiments and research are ongoing.