Colorado developing drone system to enhance situational awareness

The state of Colorado is working on a system that would use drones to provide live video of wildfires to wildland firefighters’ cell phones. The Center of Excellence for Advanced Technology Aerial Firefighting is beta testing a DVI Mavic drone that would push the real time video to firefighters using software developed by the military, Android Team Awareness Kit (ATAK).

The program has the capability of displaying data from tracking devices carried by soldiers, or firefighters, and identifying their location on a map, which in this case could also show the fire in real time.

If they are successful in developing and implementing a system that can provide to fire managers real time information about the location of a wildfire AND firefighting resources, it would achieve what we call the Holy Grail of Wildland Firefighter Safety — knowing those two elements of information.

The DJI Mavic can only stay in the air for 20 to 30 minutes before having to return to base to replace the battery. So this beta test is probably only a proof of concept attempt, perhaps leading to a more robust drone, rotor or fixed wing, that could stay in the air for a much longer period of time.

Colorado's Pilatus PC12 N327F
“”> One of the two State of Colorado’s Pilatus PC12’s, was photographed in March of 2016 in Sacramento.[/captio
Colorado already has the ability to transmit near real time imagery of fires from their two MultiMission Aircraft, Pilatus PC12’s. They are integrated with the Colorado Wildfire Information System, a geospatial database that displays incident images and details to local fire managers through a web based application.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. Google+

2 thoughts on “Colorado developing drone system to enhance situational awareness”

  1. This use of drones suggests two conflicts: one, the possibility of these drones interfering with other fire suppression aircraft; and two, the possibility that other drone operators might see them and assume they also could fly their drones in the area which obviously would interfere with other fire aircraft. While these problems can be resolved, they certainly bear consideration, and suggest that a manned platform, either an airplane or helicopter might be safer and more flexible.

    1. How about a civilian (cheaper) version of the Predator drones?
      They can operate at a higher altitude than fire-fighting aircraft so no conflicts.
      Air attack frequently puts the “overseers” in the nosebleeds.

      With the optics on these platforms, the military can put a Hellfire into a terrorist’s trunk. Surely we can use these things for good.


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