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4 Ways Drones Fight Forest Fires

25 June, 2021 | The Sphere Drones Blog

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Over the years drones have stood out in a few industries, with firefighting being one of them. Drones have the ability gather situational awareness in a short time, protect your personnel from potential hazards, enable fast mapping for incident response as well as for post-incident recovery, and administer prescribed burns with specific payloads.

1. Gather situational awareness in a short time

A drone helps you decide within minutes the type and number of resources to send to the scene of a forest fire. Some drones are also equipped with thermal sensors, which use infrared radiation to help first responders locate heat signatures of humans and fire hotspots that show where fires are most likely to spread.

Drone data can also help ensure that decision-makers are all on the same page. A wildfire response often involves large-scale operations where the incident commander must make decisions on personnel and resource deployment. Drones are effective intelligence generators that can capture detailed data and information from the field, and live stream back to the command center. By having that real-time aerial view, you can see exactly what’s happening and don’t have to rely on secondhand information. You know what’s going on and where. You can also monitor your crew to see their location and that you’re sending them in the right direction. 

2. Protect your personnel

With aerial intelligence captured by drones, incident commanders can make informed decisions that keep firefighters safe while they plunge into the fire and work to save peoples’ lives. With a drone, you can monitor your crew from afar to ensure they’re safe and heading in the right direction. In addition, drone footage can inform you where to send backup forces.

And firefighters today can trust that thermal drone technology has only improved since 2017. With the M300 RTK and the H20T, response teams are benefitting from longer flight times up to 55 minutes, increased weather resistance, and higher quality data with zoom and pinpoint functionality. 

3. Enable fast mapping

All too often, inadequate infrastructure and challenging terrain make it dangerous, time-consuming, and ineffective to patrol high-risk areas for potential signs of a potential fire. With drone mapping, teams can get a full view of the situation of the ground quickly and gain the understanding they need.

To get the job done, drone solutions for forest fire response typically carry visual and thermal cameras. The former gives you a real-time view of different situations and can easily spot your fire team or nearby equipment. A visual camera can also be used to inform a team about difficult topography or other challenges that may lie between them and a fire. The thermal camera, meanwhile, scouts for heat signatures of the human crew or fire hotspots. This can help locate hotspots at a fire scene within seconds, and see people trapped even in areas of thick smoke. Thermal cameras provide essential information that simply can't be gleaned from a visual map. 

4. Administer prescribed burns

One of the key tools scientists and firefighters use to prevent wildfire is controlled, prescribed burning. This technique involves intentionally setting small fires under set conditions to clear buildups of brush and other parts of the ecosystem that could become fuel in a future, unplanned fire. While controlled burns are traditionally lit with handheld drip torches, solutions like IGNIS, a payload built specifically for firefighting, allow a drone pilot to remotely conduct controlled burning operations, keeping all personnel at a safe distance. 

Source: DJI

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