Fire Safety with drones: How to use a drone to find and extinguish hot spots

When it comes to fires, smoldering logs and debris can create hot spots and reignite fires. Now, firefighters are using drones to find smoldering hot spots.

Last month, a fire in western North Carolina raged out of control, sending 7,100 acres of forest up in smoke. After firefighters successfully battled to control the wildfire, a team of drone pilots stepped in.

Drone pilots from Go Unmanned took a Matrice 600 with a Flir XT infrared camera and overflew the entire area, noticing many smoldering points remained in the burned out area. (The image below shows how an entire hillside looked like when it was lit with campfires in the “White-Hot” color schema, one of several color options offered by the Zenmuse XT).

The little white spots on the forested hillside in this photo are all areas of significant increased heat, most of them left over smoldering debris. For firefighters, it was surprising to see this many problem areas left over after the fire, pilots at Go Unmanned said.

The infrared camera on the drone gives a bird’s eye view of the hotspots, and through interactive guidance from the pilots, allows  firefighter on the ground to locate and uncover specific underground fires.

As you see in the photo below, the camera uncovered two hot spots close to the road. The drone pilot guided a firefighter to the hotspots and they were able to uncover them, release the heat, and prevent a possible flare-up — something completely invisible to the unaided eye.

Using “point temperature readings” Go Unmanned was able to determine that the ground surface was 80 degrees Fahrenheit while it was 130 degrees Fahrenheit 6 inches underneath the surface. It’s a use case that would traditionally send a team of firefighters to walk through an area for days or even weeks after a fire. With a drone, a firefighter was able to identify and  uncover 2 smoldering spots in 25 minutes.

-By Paul Davis

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