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.
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
- Infrared images
- Weather data
- Vegetation data
- Satellite imagery
- Historical data
- Geographical information
- Computer models
- Manned and unmanned ground and aerial vehicles
- Radar systems
It would then go through a process similar to this, which is an image from Boeing’s patent application:
The bottom line? If it works, it might be very useful. Could the U.S. government afford it? Hell no.