Drones & Firefighting
I wanted to (quickly) share some experiences with the use of drones in firefighting, as my UAS and goals differ a bit from most departments we've seen that are starting to use drones.
I am a career firefighter that recently relocated to a small rural community in Oregon, surrounded by thousands of acres of agriculture. While we do get structure fires, the majority of our fires are wildland, usually involving wheat fields. In many situations, multi-rotors make a lot of sense (see: Branford fire uses DJI Phantom on quarry fire). I also have a multi-rotor that stays near my turnout gear and I've gotten in the habit of grabbing it if I'm heading to a structure fire. Thus far, I have yet to respond to a call where it would be useful. The main reason I started building my own fixed-wing drones is to increase flight time and allow for active and ongoing monitoring of large, non-structure fires. My main goal for this project is to create a resource that is invaluable for planning a fire attack, and is therefore useful enough to justify taking a firefighter "out of the fight" in order to operate the drone throughout the event.
We are still working on our 333 and COA application, which I have been neglecting way more than I should have during this entire 6 months. Because we don't have the authorization to use these during a fire (And I'm not talking about USFS or DOI managed forest fires), I have been very reluctant to use them during an event. Most of my testing is taking place after the fact and during my off time, and very soon we will begin using them during our weekly training drills.
In the mean time, I've been using a few to map and assess the damage a day or two after the event. I have been speaking to NFIRS and firehouse.com about using drone-created imagery for our fire reports and investigations.
I do have one of the fixed wings set up with video and some low quality "night vision" and 2 5.8ghz receivers on the ground, but the quality is underwhelming. Once I am able to get the gimbal tracking dialed in for ROI monitoring in a loiter, I will look into upgrading the live feed quality and hopefully try to find some funding for a thermal camera.
Thank you for looking. If there is some interest in progress and use, I'll try to keep the blog updated.
Wheat fire mapped 2 days later with a Phantom2
NIR and NDVI mapped 1 day later with a Pixhawk powered fixed wing, processed by agribotix.