Early Detection of Forest Fires Using Drones

The Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) is working on a Telefónica R+D+i project along with the companies Divisek and Dronitec, wherein they have put together a sustainable innovation pilot project for the early detection and prevention of forest fires using drone technology.

(Image credit: Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M))

Scientists Fernando García and Abdulla al-Kaff from the Department of Systems Engineering and Automation at UC3M are coordinating the project’s scientific part, and have built the fully automatic flight system, in addition to the interface with which the emergency service can access information about what is happening in real time.

The drone we have developed for the project has a thermal camera, an optical camera, and four sensors which allow us to identify the temperature of the device in the environment, the drone’s different controllers enable us to determine the internal state of the equipment and the communication system is provided by Telefonica to receive this information in real time.

Fernando García, Professor, Department of Systems Engineering and Automation, UC3M

The communication towers are designed to detect the origin of a fire in a perimeter of up to 15 km. A hangar with the drone is situated inside the towers.

Thermal sensors transmit an alarm with the exact location to the towers when a fire outbreak is detected. The drone independently flies to that point, even in conditions of partial visibility, and collects thermal and optic images of the fire, which it conveys in real time.

The system also allows the emergency center to manipulate the drone to collect information and monitor the burned surroundings. Once its task is fulfilled, the drone returns to its hangar and recharges automatically. “It’s a totally novel solution, based on robotics and automation, which won’t remove anyone’s job, but will instead offer a new tool for emergency services, providing added value and allowing them to operate more safely and to control the situation,” the UC3M scientists affirmed.

This project, which has been verified on a trial basis along with the emergency services of the Madrid Autonomous Region, is the initial step toward the creation of technological services that help to avert forest fires. Its objective is to be a step ahead of the information, enhance decision-making and reverse the 2018 statistics that portray Spain as the European country most affected by forest fires.

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