Heat-resistant drone flies into flames to protect firefighters

Heat-resistant drone flies into flames to protect firefighters

A heat-resistant drone can fly into fires to collect and share important data about the blaze with human workers.

The drone, which is in development at Imperial College London and Empa (the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology), could be sent into burning buildings or woodland to assess hazards and provide crucial first-hand data from danger zones. The data would then be sent to firefighters to inform their emergency response.

The prototype device, called FireDrone, is made of a new thermal aerogel insulation material and houses an in-built cooling system to help it withstand temperatures of up to 200°C for ten minutes. Principal investigator Professor Mirko Kovac, director of the Aerial Robotics Lab at Imperial College London and head of the Laboratory of Sustainability Robotics at Empa, said: “Until they enter the danger zone, firefighters can’t be certain of what or who they’ll find, and what challenges they’ll encounter.“ FireDrone could be sent in ahead to gather crucial information – noting trapped people, building layouts, unexpected hazards – so that responders can prepare accordingly to keep themselves safe and potentially save more lives. 

"Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are already used from afar in firefighting to take aerial footage, hoist fire hoses up skyscrapers, or drop fire retardant in remote areas to slow the spread of wildfires. Drones equipped with cameras and carbon dioxide (CO2) sensors could provide crucial information about the layout and composition of fires, but current options are unable to fly closer to fires in case their frames melt or their electronics fail. 


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