Swarm drones could be used for firefighting

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The most common use for drones in firefighting today is to provide information.

Drones fly over the active fire and provide visual and thermal data to the firefighters. However, Italian researchers proposed another way how drones could help firefighter: drones could drop water or other extinguishing liquids onto the flames.

A few heavy-lift drone companies have experimented with using a single big drone to carry a firehose or a large bucket of water into the air for this purpose. Unfortunately, these applications were not really effective.

A recent academic paper Drone Swarms in Fire Suppression Activities: A Conceptual Framework proposed the idea of using drone swarms to fight fires.

While a single, huge drone with a heavy payload may not make that much of a difference for a fire, a swarm of small drones might have a significant impact.

The drone swarm approach to firefighting is meant specifically for fighting forest fires. The idea is that a large swarm of drones could create a constant barrage of liquid, essentially acting like man-made rain.

Although helicopters and airplanes can be used to drop water on active fires, drones present several advantages:

  • They are more flexible regarding takeoff and locations
  • Drones can be deployed faster than airplanes
  • They have fewer operational limitations (can operate day and night)
  • Drones are customisable
  • Using swarm drones puts no lives at risk
  • UAV’s that use fire extinguishing liquids instead of water have no water refueling limitations

Using drones for fighting fires is currently just an idea, but the research paper can help to widen the deployment of drones in the field.

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