Boeing files patent applications for wildfire management system

Boeing Fire Management System
Boeing Fire Management System
Illustration from Boeing’s patent application

The Boeing Company has filed patent applications in the United States (#20120261144 A1) and Australia (#2012201025) for an extremely complex, high-tech system to help manage wildland fires. Here is the complete abstract that, uh, sort of, describes the idea:

A method and apparatus for managing fires. A computer system is configured to receive fire related information from at least a first portion of a plurality of assets and analyze the fire-related information to generate a result. The computer system is configured to coordinate an operation of a second portion of the plurality of assets using the result.

Got that?

In studying the application, here’s what I was able to decipher. It would utilize many, many sensors and sources of information on the ground and in the air to detect new fires, coordinate fire resources, predict fire spread, develop a plan for containing the fire, help keep firefighters safe, and monitor the fire. It could even:

…analyze fire-related information to identify an undesired condition resulting from a fire for an operator at a location and direct heterogeneous group of vehicles to obtain information about the fire at the location. In particular, heterogeneous group of vehicles may be directed to obtain information relating to at least one of the safety of the operator at the location and containment of the fire at the location.

Sadly, the entire document is written like that. If I interpret it correctly, the system could detect that a firefighting resource was in an unsafe location based on the fire situation and proactively assign resources to collect information to help mitigate the “undesired condition”.

The system would gather information such as this, or from these sources:

  • Smoke levels
  • Carbon dioxide levels
  • Positioning data
  • Still images
  • Video
  • Infrared images
  • Weather data
  • Vegetation data
  • Satellite imagery
  • Historical data
  • Geographical information
  • Computer models
  • Manned and unmanned ground and aerial vehicles
  • Personnel
  • Radar systems
  • GPS

It would then go through a process similar to this, which is an image from Boeing’s patent application:

Boeing Fire Management System flow chart

The bottom line? If it works, it might be very useful. Could the U.S. government afford it? Hell no.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, Bill Gabbert now writes about it from the Black Hills. Google+

13 thoughts on “Boeing files patent applications for wildfire management system”

  1. So, Boeing patents an idea that is to: detect a fire using multiple sources, determine the specific resource needs for the fire and than decide on a course of action. Sounds like they just patented what we have been doing for over a hundred years. I guess the government will have to pay them for the rights to use this idea.

  2. The “pages” of Wildfire Today have recently been filled with ideas and concepts that “are off the hook” dude. Good people, good intentions, but have only watched fires on the tube, I mean flat screen. Today we have a double header; Aviation Site, drones dropping retardant and Boeing (aren’t they based in the State of Washington or is it Colorado, dude?) detecting a wildfire. In the West during the dry months (we call this fire season) a fire is usually no more difficult to detect than an atomic bomb test at Yucca Flats, Nevada.

  3. Way too much reliance on “supertechnology.” Take all of that $ and put it towards more Rx fires. What’s the lines from the great movie “Aliens?”

    Ripley: How many drops is this for you, Lieutenant?
    Gorman: Thirty eight… simulated.
    Vasquez: How many *combat* drops?
    Gorman: Uh, two. Including this one.

  4. This idea from the people that can’t get a battery to work in the 787.

    The money spent making this thing work would pay for a brand new 50 aircraft tanker fleet, lead planes, and all the people to operate and maintain them.

  5. Its a lovely read….

    About like reading FIRESUM and BEHAVE programs 30+ yrs ago and how to work a HP TI 59 to even come up with an answer.

    Yes to both the reliance and technology and the 787….

    The only two things……. the battery is not a Boeing product …fortunately AND wait for it…………

    The 787 took less time to R&D and BUILD than six studies trying to figure out the the “next generation” of airtankers……at least private industry is doing its best with the “next generation”……something foreign to USFS FAM

    At least Boeing got something done….the airtanker studies…not so much

  6. Boeing’s contract(s) for the Secure Border Initiative Network (SBInet/”the virtual fence”), although eventually cancelled, reaped the company many tens of millions of dollars. Design and development were key to ultimate deployment. Boeing did not truly fail (they are in the running for a huge new contract for, yup, a new improved “the virtual fence”). I suspect much of the company’s R&D (paid for by us, the taxpayer) for its first virtual fence presented them, with forward-looking if not far-sighted management, an opportunity to try cornering the market on such insanity by applying for this patent. Why not? LR

  7. Oh NO, you’re all wrong: this is High Tech stuff that must be really cool. But, let’s be sure we have back-up generators and lots of Kodak AA batteries, just in case ,,,,,! I’ll still have my old Silva Ranger compass and slide rule when all else fails. And my Orange fire shirt too! Another thought: don’t tear down your old lookouts and throw away the Osborne Firefinders either.

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