Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past week, you’ll know that Fort McMurray in Canada is facing the one of the worst fires the country and world has ever seen. More than 100,000 people have already been evacuated, however despite the massive 156,000 hectare fire and thousands of lost properties, there’s still not a single fatality. Australians could learn from the Canadian’s acceptance that staying and fighting was never going to work.
So what started this monumental fire? Well that’s still unknown, but authorities are now turning to drones to help investigate the cause. DJI Inspire 1 drones are being used by Elevated Robotic Services, on behalf of the Alberta government and insurance broker Hub International Ltd.
These aren’t your regular consumer level drones that have caused issues in fire fighting incidents in the past, instead they are professional grade drones outfitted with infrared, ultraviolet and traditional optical cameras to track down the hottest part of the fire which could lead to the source of the fire. Other factors like time, wind and accelerants are all taken into account when making these assessments. The drones will take about 800 images, which then get stitched together to create an overall map of the affected area, this is known as fire-mapping.
Mat Matthews, Operation and Safety Manager at Elevated Robotic Services said,
“It’s like Google Maps but 100 times better,”
Right now the ignition point is like finding a needle in a massive haystack. The using of imaging technology will help narrow the possible locations to 9 metre radius. It is expected the fire started from a lightning strike, however authorities haven’t ruled out the possibility of it being deliberately lit.
Another advantage of using drones is that they’re unmanned, so flying them into environments will poor visibility is possible. Where as helicopter pilot may need to avoid smoke and hover at around 1,000 feet, a drone can capture images from 100 feet above, resulting in much better detail and final stich.
While the battery powered drones suffer from short battery life, they can work in teams and they can work on pre-configured GPS grids.
More information at Reuters.