Californian firefighters are using drones to help stop the spread of wildfires.
Drones have been used by the military for their ability to provide a safe way to see the battlefield, they've also been used by real estate agents to provide a better view of homes and properties. Whatever the purpose these devices are used for, however, they make life easier.
That's why the Menlo Park District Fire Station in California, offered a demonstration showing a fire going on and civilians trapped inside. With thermal imaging capabilities, a drone provided information regarding two civilians who were trapped. The twist was that only one of the two were visible to someone without this device. The entire simulation was shown to firefighters to prove how useful this technology could be, especially in large fires.
According to CNET, the California Air National Guard is already using an MQ-9 Reaper drone to capture live video of the Mendocino Complex and Carr fires from a whopping 20,000 feet in the air. With the ability to stay in the air for hours, these blazes can be monitored consistently and vital information can be relayed to firefighters on the ground.
Some drones are even equipped with lidar technology, which basically uses pulsed light to generate 3D maps that show where fires are most likely to spread. This can also measure distances, which is great if a fire department needs to prioritize fires.
There is basically a plethora of reasons why drones are making the fight against wildfires easier, but there are also some issues. Drone pilots are in limited supply, but Menlo Park Fire Station is providing training for some. Then there's the issue of communicating information back to the firefighters on the ground. While the Center of Excellence for Advanced Technology Aerial Firefighting does have a system in trial right now that transmits the video feed to firefighter's cell phones, this won't work in places where there is no service.
Overall, there is not going to be a clear-cut solution to the fires right now, but we can surely use drones to both make the job safer and easier for firefighters. The devices can give a view on a massive fire that would never have been capable without a helicopter, which can be in limited quantity during fires.