INFOCA (the Andalusian authority for the management of wildfires) along with ELIMCO (Spanish UAV manufacturer) have finished a series of trials to track wildfires at night by means of a UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle).
These trials have been conducted between INFOCA and ELIMCO to validate the UAV capabilities to track fire lines at night.
Tracking the fire line during the night is of key importance. Fire fighting activities at night are only carried out by land operatives. The night aerial activities are too risky for the pilots and operators so they have to be stopped. This lull in fighting efforts during the night allow the wildfire to expand and move rapidly with a reduced resistance and making it very difficult to have a close, immediate and accurate sight of what is going on with it.
The UAV night flight poses no risk for the operators who are controlling it from a safe distance outside the emergency perimeter. It flies directly above the wildfire area gathering valuable information on the fire line with thermal and high sensibility cameras. This thermal images are then geotagged and real time relayed down to mobile command centers.
New orders and instructions are then emitted from the command center to all land and air units so they can coordinate their efforts with extreme efficiency and accuracy before dawn. This is also of key importance because in the early morning with lower air temperatures all efforts in fighting fires are multiplied and their results are clearly increased.
During those night flights the E-300 Viewer can be loitering over the fire for around 3 hours and can get as far as 100Km from the launching point. The E-300 is probably the most capable electric UAV available for civil applications available today. It is being used in many countries due, precisely, to its high performances and excellent quality/price ratio. Its use for firefighting support roles is still something new, but eventually it will be seen as something practical and necessary.
The trials without real fire have been finished and they showed a very positive result in detection and a proper functioning of the communications between UAV and command center.
Now the system has been integrated as an airborne sensor in the INFOCA fire-fighting protocols so the E-300 Viewer will be summoned to do its job as soon as the very first real wildfire takes place.