Drone research could help fight forest fires, save firefighters’ lives

Drone research could help fight forest fires, save firefighters’ lives

02 February 2014

published by www.newsrecord.org

USA — Research at the University of Cincinnati could help fight forest fires more effectively, and consequently save firefighters’ lives using drones.

“We started off with the wild fires because it’s a little more open space and you don’t have to worry about people or anything like that,” said Bryan Brown, a third-year graduate student.

Brown is the student leader of the UC Surveillance for Intelligent Emergency Response Robotic Aircraft Team, which deals specifically with research pertaining to the use of unmanned aircrafts in emergency response situations.

Brown and Kelly Cohen — an associate professor of aerospace engineering with 15 years of experience working with drones — are working together with about 14 other students in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences to find ways to implement drones in emergency responses.

Using a GPS system that runs through Google Earth the drone is able to gather info about the fire without risking a pilot’s life, Cohen said. With that information, officials are able to see how the fire is growing and make predictions on how fast it will grow over time.

“If we know how it is growing than we can make sure that our people won’t be in harms way,” Cohen said.

The technology could be a game changer, especially in light of the recent tragedies including a wild fire in Arizona that killed 19 firefighters in November, Cohen said. The drones could also provide information on how a specific fire started.

However, the high cost of the technology presents a problem for implementing the research in fire departments across the country.

“The firefighters do not have a valid budget for military IV’s,” Cohen said. “They need low cost so we are trying to develop for them low cost solutions.”

The SIERRA team also is working with the Cincinnati Fire Department to try and utilize drones in searches for missing people.

Researchers receive funding from the NASA foundation, the local industry and the U.S. Air Force.


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