Can UAVs help fight fires? ACRL is working to find it out!

Working with the Illinois Fire Service Institute, Prof. Hovakimyan’s group performed flight tests last week to find out how Unmanned Aerial Vehicle technologies can help firefighters. It is expected that an integrated UAV technology will reduce the time of the mission, number of required resources (including personnel), and will reduce firefighters risk by preventing man force from entering harm’s way.

The goal is to send an UAV to the scene of an accident ahead of first responders, and provide them with continuous, real-time situational awareness. As an example, information about the extent of the fire, the position of the fire sources, possible chemicals involved in an accident, etc., could be used in crucial decision making.

Two videos were taken from the first (of many) flight tests. The first video illustrates a scenario in which a hexarotor UAV flies above the top of a building (eventually on fire). The vehicle, equipped with a gimbaled camera, streams the live video to a ground station.


The second video illustrates the use of a hexarotor UAV on the scene of an accident. The UAV is asked to inspect a railroad car, and verify the type of material the car contains, by looking at a tag positioned on the side of the train car.