Fighting Forest Fires with Drone Swarms

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Researchers at the Indian Institute of Science are using multiple drone swarms to deal with forest fires, which are becoming increasingly common worldwide due to climate change, with catastrophic results.

The researchers claim the solution can be a drone swarm. While drone use is nothing new, Professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering Suresh Sundaram and his team of scientists propose taking the technology a step further and coordinating multi-swarm drones to put out forest fires.

According to Techxplore, the team designed a special algorithm that would allow the drone swarm to communicate and make independent decisions, so when an alarm is raised about a potential fire the swarms can be sent in, each drone armed with cameras, thermal and infrared sensors, and temperature detectors, to spot the fires. Then once the fire is discovered, the drone closest to it becomes the center of the swarm and attracts others towards it.

Furthermore, each drone will have the autonomy to calculate the size of the fire and its potential to spread and decide how many drones are needed to quench it.

Sundaram explains: “These decisions are made by the drones. They figure out which cluster of fire is going to spread faster, and allocate the required number of drones to put out that fire while the others look for other fire clusters.”

The swarm-based search algorithm developed by the team is key to controlling the drones’ behavior since searching for fire cannot be random as the area to explore would be too large. The solution is in the algorithm, the drones’ temperature sensors look for a minimum threshold heat value, and when they find it they begin looking more closely, knowing the fire is near.

Another major advantage of using drones is that the decision-making is decentralized, based on data, and aimed at maximum efficiency – no more than the required number of drones will be assigned to a fire cluster, allowing others to fan out in search of other clusters.

This concept of drone swarms could also be implemented to assist during other natural disasters like floods and earthquakes, locate survivors, deliver water, food, and medicines, and boost communication.

This information was provided by Techxplore.