|Drone Amplified is using drones to fight fire and assist fireghters / Photo Credit: By Mike Chapman (via Shutterstock)|
Ready to fight fire with fire or with drones? Drone Amplified, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln startup company is using drones to fight the flames of the fire season, reported Alyssa Amen of newsroom Nebraska Today. The company is head by associate professor of computer science and engineering Carrick Detweiler. The company’s drones carry chemical spheres and at the push of a button, the spheres will intentionally spark small fires “and starve incoming wildfires of potential fuel.”
Chief engineer and Nebraska alumnus Jim Higgins explained, “It allows crews to ignite large, complex burns without the danger factor.” The company developed a custom software application to automate the following tasks: altitude, mission duration, how many spheres to drop and time in between each, and where to drop them. The software also enables users to create geofences or virtual boundaries to keep the drones in a selected area.
Detweiler noted that the drones do not pose danger to human life when it is flown at night. In fact, the drone provides situational awareness to “safely fly and ignite burns,” giving ground crews the upper hand when daytime comes. Users from the federal government, non-profit organizations, and private companies have provided feedback on the drones and its software. Drone Amplified uses them to develop new features and one of them is the offline elevation maps.
Chief app developer and Nebraska graduate Evan Beachly stated that Drone Amplified’s software “adds autonomy and mission planning.” Users will just set it up and press “go.” They have seen the benefits of the drones firsthand. When the 2018 Klondike fire in Oregon occurred, firefighters were reluctant of using the drones. However, by the end of a month-long deployment, they requested the drones to fly during their daily operations.
Higgins has trained employees from various federal agencies. These employees also used the drone systems to fight fires in Arizona, Alaska, and other sites all over the United States. The firm believes that drones will become a “standard tool” in firefighting. Detweiler said they want to save the lives of people who work in dangerous jobs. Detweiler added, “I think we’re right at the leading edge of this wave of using unmanned systems in firefighting.”