Communities and ecosystems are being destroyed by wildfires as they spread more frequently and with greater intensity. Around the planet, from Australia to the Arctic to North and South America, recent years have seen record-breaking wildfire seasons. Reduced wildfire risk is more important than ever due to rising global temperatures.
In the coming years, things might only become worse. The extension of fire seasons brought on by climate change is causing more and worse fires.
But flying drones might make all the difference!
Drones are demonstrating their ability to detect, contain, and even extinguish fires more quickly and safely. They range in size from tiny quadcopters to large fixed-wing aircraft. They provide firefighters with a birds-eye perspective of the landscape and aid them in predicting where a fire will grow, allowing them to act quickly when deciding where to send fire teams and which residents need to be evacuated.
Safer and more Versatile
Over traditional airplanes, drones have several advantages. One reason is that the helicopters and airplanes needed to scan wildfires and dump retardants cannot fly in bad weather, and they are frequently in low supply. Flying over roaring fires puts pilots and crew at risk, and operating, maintaining, and training these aircraft is extremely expensive.
Infrared cameras that can see through smoke, as well as sensors for wind direction and other environmental factors that determine how wildfires progress, can all be added to drones. They can glide low enough to record high-quality video while whizzing past canyons and other congested areas where helicopters cannot fly.
Drones may fly in environments in which helicopters and aircraft cannot. Drones can also spot a short escape path if a team is in danger of a fire closing in on them.
How Do Fire Departments Utilize Drones?
1. Unparalleled Access
Drones give firefighters access that is unsurpassed when compared to traditional earthbound firefighting operations. When working in isolated locations with challenging terrain, dense vegetation, and inadequate road infrastructure, or in densely populated urban areas with tall buildings and other physical impediments, drones have access compared to terrestrial firefighting vehicles. In order to obtain airborne intelligence, firefighters can use drones’ high-altitude flight capabilities to fly above large buildings and inaccessible natural terrain.
2. Risk Assessment
Compared to conventional fire vehicles outfitted with aerial ladders, drones can reach far greater altitudes. Drones may fly up to 400 feet in the air in accordance with FAA restrictions. This contrasts with ladder trucks, which can only reach 100 feet. Additionally, drone deployment is substantially faster. In order to identify potential threats and dangers, fire departments are now able to quickly and precisely survey the foreground from the air. As a result, commanding officers have unmatched situational awareness and airborne intelligence at their disposal, enabling them to dispatch firefighters and plan rescue operations in a secure manner.
3. Thermal Imaging
Visibility is a constant problem for firefighters on the ground due to dense clouds of smoke rising from the fire and actual impediments like nearby buildings and towering trees. Thankfully, drones with high-definition infrared (IR) cameras enable firemen to use thermal imaging to see things that are invisible to the unaided eye. The lack of visibility enables them to monitor hotspots, recognize deployed soldiers, and find individuals trapped inside structures.
4. Remote Monitoring & Coordination
Firefighters may transmit high-definition video information about the fireground to central command in real time thanks to drones. This enables better communication between first responders and other emergency response organizations. Additionally, the video and data captured during emergency response incidents can be used as proof, for after-action analysis, and in future training materials.
5. Emergency Deliveries
In some emergency scenarios, victims could be stuck in a burning structure or in another far-flung, dangerous, or inaccessible area. These victims frequently need urgent medical attention and can’t wait for firefighters and other emergency personnel to put out the fire and clear a way to them. Fortunately, while firefighting and rescue operations are in progress, fire services can employ drones to transport AEDs and other emergency supplies and equipment to these victims.
Why Are Drones Useful for Fire Departments?
1. Higher Reach
Compared to traditional fire trucks fitted with aerial ladders, drones can fly to far greater altitudes.
2. Rapid Aerial Surveillance
Drones enable fire crews to examine the fireground far more thoroughly from the air and to start doing so as soon as they get on the site.
Firefighters can monitor fires in difficult-to-reach areas or inaccessible terrain using drones.
4. Search & Rescue
When the fireground is covered in smoke, drones with thermal imaging cameras can aid locate hotspots, victims, and rescue personnel who would otherwise be hidden from view. To help with nighttime rescue efforts, they can also be fitted with floodlights.
5. Cost Savings
Drones provide fire departments important technical and safety advantages, as well as significant cost reductions in comparison to conventional approaches. Drones can assist offset some of the cost of deploying fire vehicles and personnel when combating emergency fires.
6. Damage Assessment
Drones are useful for inspecting the fireground before, during, and after a fire to evaluate the damage, track the spread of the fire, and aid in the search for missing persons. The data captured by the drones during firefighting operations is not only useful as proof but may also be utilized to develop training materials.
Using drones to fight wildfires is arguably one of the more admirable uses of this technology that we have seen. Drones may be used to combat wildfires, or even better, to prevent them, which only serves to show that this technology is advantageous to civilization and the rest of the globe.
Renegade drones, on the other hand, pose a danger to firefighting operations, which only serves to illustrate the contradictory nature of drone technology. Up till a point, drones are quite beneficial. Civilian drone operators are then responsible for abiding by government regulations and staying out of the way when there is a wildfire because no picture or video is worth hindering emergency response.