In April of 2020, a massive bush fire broke out in the forests around the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, resulting in emergency crews racing to beat the fire before radioactive remnants spread to nearby towns. Ten days later, fire crews could extinguish the fire, with radiation limits and restriction not changing after the fact.
The fire required more than 1,000 firefighters, 120 fire trucks, helicopters, helicopters, and planes to get the job done. After the fire was extinguished, ten drones joined the force, helping the State Agency of Ukraine for Management of Exclusion Zone, State Emergency Service of Ukraine, and State Forest Guard gather aerial intelligence on the burnt areas.
Alexander Sirota, Chairman of the Public Council at the State Agency of Ukraine for the Management of the Exclusion Zone shared:
It helped us work faster, smarter. The captured [drone] data helped responsible personnel make decisions to change the direction of ground teams deployment, and even correct manned aircrafts deployment.
Drones were sent up into the sky to getter a better view of the situation from day one. The only issue was the large amount of thick smoke blocking the cameras' perspective, which required thermal cameras.
On top of the drones that were already in use, two DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual drones were brought in to see through the thick smoke. The two drones measured specific locations' temperature and located hot spots that needed to be doused with water.
Another big issue for firefighters was the radiation levels in the area. As a result of the levels, crews were limited to specific time frames before being required to leave the area and come back later. The drones meant the teams didn't need to be in the areas for as long, using the drones to capture data rather than the firefighters.
Even without fire, it is unsafe to stay in some parts of the Chernobyl area. With the fire, we are facing additional risks for the personnel. Drones helped to shorten the time they needed to be in radioactive areas and lower the potential harm.