Firefighting and prevention with drones or unmanned aerial vehicles
Every year, the outrageous results that are produced by uncontrolled fires become evident. For this reason, aviation and safety authorities from different European Member States and the whole world are investing a great amount of resources on firefighting and prevention. Nowadays, Spain already has in some of its regions a small fleet of drones and, specifically, the Generalitat Valenciana (the government of a Spanish eastern coastal region) approved to modify the Emergencies Territorial Plan to include the use of drones.
Regarding to prevention of uncontrolled fires, drones can help performing inspections of difficult access and potentially dangerous areas such as dry pastures, all that in a fast and effective way. Besides, they can help to detect and prevent intentional fires, something remarkable considering they are the origin of around the 90% of uncontrolled fires.
To help on firefighting tasks, drones are able to detect the danger of a fire just measuring the smoke: due to some specific algorithms, they can evaluate the required urgency considering the tonality of the smoke and flames (if they exist).
The most common is that drones work together with conventional manned aircrafts for firefighting, but without interfering on their airspace. Nevertheless, night operations are scenarios where only drones are allowed to perform firefighting tasks, since legislation does not permit conventional firefighting aircrafts to operate at night.
Drones specialized on firefighting and other emergencies have been already tested on different situations. In explosions resulting on injured people and toxic clouds, a drone with thermic camera and another with an optic sensor of great potency, is able to broadcast imagery on real time, to detect the kind of the chemical contaminating substance, to find the victims of the accident and to evaluate their vital signs.
Beyond these benefits for using drones on firefighting operations, there are many other applications such as search and rescue missions, flood and earthquake prevention and operate in consequence… among others. For instance, a rescue crew made of 5 members, usually needs around two hours to locate a victim in a square kilometer; a drone is able to do the same task in just 20 minutes or even less.
Latest technological advances on firefighting
Drones development for firefighting does not stop. If a single drone with an infrared camera and another one for professional video is able to provide all the advantages previously said, there are fireproof prototypes on development that are able to increase their functions, such as entering into a burning building to find the core of the fire or trapped people. Some of these prototypes are able to resist around 1,000 ºC while avoiding obstacles.
Embention develops drones able to perform firefighting tasks on its whole range of aircrafts NM&. In addition, Embention has its own R&D project: Flamingo. The key element of Flamingo system is a guided bomb with a payload of 200 liters of retardant / extinguishing agent, able to fly completely autonomously, permitting both: firefighting operations and the creation of chemical firewalls.