Swarm of Drones: The Future of Wildfire Management

In a groundbreaking development, researchers at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) are testing a new approach to manage natural disasters like wildfires using swarms of drones. As climate change intensifies the frequency and severity of catastrophic weather events, this innovative technology could be a game-changer in the fight against devastating fires, reports Cosmos.

Coordinated Multi-Swarm Approach

The IISc researchers have developed a special algorithm that enables a coordinated multi-swarm of drones to quell forest fires. According to Professor Suresh Sundaram from the Department of Aerospace Engineering at IISc, “A swarm of drones could be the solution. A swarm that can communicate with each other.”

The new software allows the drones to make independent decisions and communicate with each other. Each drone calculates the fire's size and potential spread, and the swarm allocates the required number of drones to put out the fastest-spreading fire clusters while the others search for new fires.

Inspired by Nature

The researchers took inspiration from a single-celled marine predator called Oxyrrhis marina. As lead author Josy John, a PhD student at IISc, explains, “When foraging, it first takes longer steps to explore the area. Once it feels like it is closer to the food source, it will reduce the step length and then start exploring the area in more detail. The temperature sensors in the drones look for a minimum [threshold] value. When that is reached, the drones reduce their search step, because the fire is near.”

Testing and Implementation of Drone Swarms

The AI-enabled fire detection using thermal cameras and the payload drop mechanism to extinguish fires have been tested, but full-scale field tests are still pending. Rob Webb, CEO of the Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council (AFAC), notes that while the potential uses for drones in bushfire-fighting are significant, it will take time to ensure the technology can be safely integrated.

Webb emphasizes that the sensing technology may be more important than the platform deploying it, and agencies are investigating whether drones can replace conventional aircraft for carrying the necessary sensing equipment. However, he stresses that further testing and guarantees are required before the technology can be implemented on a large scale.

The Future of Disaster Management

As natural disasters become more frequent and intense due to climate change, innovative solutions like drone swarms could play a crucial role in managing and mitigating their impact. While there are still challenges to overcome, the potential for this technology to save lives and protect communities is immense. With continued research and development, swarms of drones could become an essential tool in the fight against wildfires and other natural disasters.

The featured image is for illustration purposes only.

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Haye Kesteloo
Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Founder of DroneXL.co, where he covers all drone-related news, DJI rumors and writes drone reviews, and EVXL.co, for all news related to electric vehicles. He is also a co-host of the PiXL Drone Show on YouTube and other podcast platforms. Haye can be reached at haye @ dronexl.co or @hayekesteloo.

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