Hey UAV heads!

I've been flying RC's my whole life but I'm totally new to this sort of thing. I'm trying to find a solution to fly a UAV autonomously over a forest fire at night. The goal is to have it record IR video and send it back to a base station which records the live IR video and also the GPS coordinates, time and date, like an information overlay over the IR image. Over course it also needs to be able to fly safely at night atonomously. If price and platforms weren't a concern, is this possible?


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They sent me an email and by the looks of it 15 minutes is the max battery life I can get from one of their rigs. That really doesn't quite cut it seeing as you won't be able to get very close to the fire, the UAV will need battery life to fly quite far and then return.

I have 5 yrs. infrared scanning experience from various helicopter platforms over Northern Canada forest fires. Early morning say around 4:30 am was the preferred time to scan, this allowed the surface heat of rocks, discarded cans and bottles to cool down eliminating false positives. Scanning only came into play for the bigger fires when overall fire fighting resources allocation was critical. I'll have more to contribute unfortunately I have to go for now.

Sent you a friend request. Would love to hear in more detail.

Seems like a pretty tough challenge for low altitude flight and a regulatory challenge for high altitude flight.

I'd be concerned that the high degree of thermal variation would make any small platform extremely unstable (and hard to correct for). In addition super heated air will make the sensing of altitude complicated as both temperature and pressure will vary wildly.

I'm not saying it can't be done, I'm just point out some areas of potential trouble.

Hey Auk, what part of BC are you in?  Anywhere in the north, near Terrace?   What you are considering seems pretty reasonable to me and I too have considered this application as I also work for an aviation company that does fire work.  Although there are limitations here as others have pointed out, I think it is still feasible. For example, 15min seems short but a drone can cover a lot of ground in that time. Also the thermals created by a fire will mess with the barometer as I have proven by nearly dropping into a bonfire, however we are not really talking about flying over a fire so much as looking for hotspots.  To answer your basic question, yes it certainly is possible, the biggest hurdle might be regulatory in nature. If you are in Northern BC maybe we could get together and see what we can come up with as I am already flying a heavy, camera carrying quad with FPV video and OSD that flies about 15 min.

I completely agree with you. Although it is possible, these guys made a head shield to get the craft basically right above the fire. I would be needing to fly the craft MUCH higher then this


Hey Dean,
Thanks for the reply, I'll shoot you a private message later on.

Just for interest false positives are exactly why the Kruger Park has abandoned thermal imaging for anti poaching work. They had a PC12 with turret flying nights and it just did'nt cut it.

You might want to speak to the folks at Nitrofirex 


Europe leads the way ;-)

The only reason why I got sparked about this project was because the government still uses thermal imaging as a solution for hot spotting where we are from. I can't find any information of them abandoning it, could you show me where to find this? I'm very interested if theres any documentation.

That was for people spotting in a park in Africa not fire spotting. The pilot told me ;-)

at night and autonomously, that's going to be a problem.  Updrafts from fires can be hell to fly through.  Ive flown uav's in the day and because of problems ive had, we have to take control manually.   Do it during the day, but good luck getting the government to agree to letting you doing it.   

I work for the University of Alaska Fairbanks and we fly UAV's for them for forest fire. It is very possible but I would stay away from quads on a mission like this. Beside the facts of can this be done. there are a lot of legal requirements. If you want to talk more off line I can do that just message me and I will give you my contact info. 



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