June 14, 2021

Fire Rescue Drone Ops | Structure Fire After Action Report

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In May 2021, a member of the FLYMOTION training division was off-site visiting a client of ours based in Louisiana. In between demonstrations, a call came through the radio alerting them of a structure fire. In this case, it was a large single-family home that caught fire and was quickly and heavily engulfed in flames. Luckily, Justin was traveling with two flagship DJI enterprise drones—the newly-released DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced and the DJI Matrice 300 RTK.

Once Justin arrived on scene, he asked permission to deploy our UAS. Once the incident commander gave the green light, Justin first deployed the Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced. The goal of getting the lightweight UAS airframe airborne first was primarily to gain full 360-degree situational awareness of the property. The second goal of fire rescue drone operations is and should always be providing overwatch during the entirety of the call, until it is cleared.

Visibly, there was a column of smoke that emerged through the roof. For fire rescue professionals on the ground, this presented a visibility challenge of where to direct the hose lines to combat the source of the flames.

With Justin piloting the Enterprise Advanced, he utilized the high-resolution 640x512 thermal to see through the smoke. Flames that were hidden from eyesight on the ground were now clear as day with the thermal sensor overhead. Combating this structure fire with a thermal sensor overhead allowed fire rescue to gain control of the fire faster and placed a major emphasis on improved firefighter safety.

After the fire was contained, Justin landed the Enterprise Advanced and deployed the Matrice 300 RTK with the Zenmuse H20-T payload attached. The H20-T payload packs a powerful 20-megapixel zoom sensor providing a 23x hybrid optical zoom and 200x maximum digital zoom. It was necessary to incorporate the zoom capability alongside the thermal during this time of vulnerability.

With most of the fire suppressed, hot spots still presented a threat to firefighter safety via the risk of re-ignitions. It was at this point in the call, firefighters were entering the home. Our pilot hovered directly above the house and set the isotherms on the thermal to display hot spots ranging between 200 degrees and 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Seeing very clear hot spots allowed the incident commander to direct the hose lines to the appropriate places.

The Take-Away: The high-powered zoom camera allowed for even sharper detail of exactly what was still burning—a huge value add for firefighter safety and keeping the house from reigniting. Providing additional technology support through drone operations during a fire call presents many valuable benefits to save agencies money, time, and most important, lives of innocent bystanders and those who serve in public safety.

To catch the After Action Report video, please watch on our FLYMOTION YouTube channel. Thank you for reading!

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