Servers by jDrones

Fires and UAV's

I have been involved in wildland fire fighting for 14 years, 10 years in operations and the last 4 in administrative roles. By no means is 10 years any length of time considering the fine folks that have and are still dedicating their time. The US has just taken a step forward using UAV’s in fire research as well as helping keep fire fighters out of harm’s way, but then a abrupt step backwards. If you look at natural disasters in the US, we do not place individuals in the way of hurricanes, tornadoes, nor floods, but we do put them in front of wildfires. We may take mitigating effects to limit the damage of other natural disasters but none like wildland fire. Year in and year out we have lost on average about 14 people a year across all federal agencies (this doesn’t include local government agencies), and this has been a common “acceptable loss.” The new natural disaster of the 21st century is fire. We have seen it from US, Israel, Greece, Portugal, Brazil, and even Sweden, to name a few! This is not going to be something that is going to just up an vanish without a change in policy and public perception about the benefits of fire on the landscape. This is not common knowledge just known by Aboriginal or Native tribes, but it is a practice that most Aboriginal and native individuals knew benefited the landscape.

I mentioned earlier about the US Federal Agency taking a step forward, then an abrupt step backward. I will elaborate on that a bit more here. Until recently about 2 months ago the Department of Interior had been allowed to use “DJI Enterprise” products because supposedly these weren’t transmitting data back to China. That abruptly ended in December when the DOI (Depratment of Interior) which controls the BLM ( Bureau of Land Management) stopped all use of DJI drones due to national security “issues”, this later bled over to their other drones in the fleet, most of which are 3DR Solo’s and firefly 6’s, and a few parrot anafi’s. I have not seen the recent MOU regarding UAS use in the federal government. There is also a bill in congress that will bar any DJI UAV’s from any federal use and federal contracting.Why do I even mention this, well the fact that I can easily get a new m600 or m100 enterprise drone shipped to the nearest shipping port or I can also get parts readily available off the shelf when we needed them was a great benefit to the boutique UAV’s that many offer. And we have crashed quite a few, barometers seem to not really like flames licking the bottom of the UAV. If someone can show me a workhorse ardcopter qaud that can carry a 20 MP and/or a decent thermal radiometric camera and fly for 40 minutes and also stand up to a great deal of movement across the US from one week to another, operate in temps from -10c to 45c and have readily available parts that don’t cost a lot and are consistently available and not be in a constant beta test, I’d love to buy it!

Great banning DJI opens the door for the ardu-community to fill that gap at least in the US. WHOA not so fast have you read the new proposed rule about “remote ID?” If you haven’t please read it here if you are located in the US or ever think you’d like to operate in the US. it’s a lot to read and very ambiguous in its writing, seem’s common for laws!

If you like it or dislike it please let them know what you like or dislike in the law. A quick read across the comments will give you a great boiler plate template for a copy and paste to let the FAA know how you feel, formal comment is open until March 2, 2020 2359EST (1159PM EST)

My last rant I guess you can call it that now. What typesof UAV technology have you folks seen or know that has been deployed on some of the bushfires. Is the majority of it recon/intelligence, or have you heard of folks using it for SA (situational awareness) eyes in the sky type of thing?

Please let me know what UAV/UGV’s you have heard or you have used on the fireline that has benefited the overall strategy or SA.

Hi Matt

Maybe this can help you. These drones are based on ardupilot firmware, they can carry RGB, thermal and multispectral cameras. And they can fly for 40 minutes.

Take a look at the website:

They also make customized projects if needed.

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I see they are using in their photos a A6000, on a solid mount, am I correct? This UAv looks very similar to a M100 actually which is a wonderful form factor. If you have first hand knowledge with this UAv how would you say the solid fixed mount for the camera performs compared to a gimbaled camera, given that you have accounted for error in the overlap of the camera when taking trapezoidal photos. even with a dji platform and integrated gimbal we are still operating at 85% sidelap and 90% endlap, but we are often times imaging areas with very little geometry for structure for motion when taking stills such as a sea of forest that has very little structure from motion from any angle compared to urban environments!! When doing fire behavior validation we are often times stationary over plot center until a battery change or the flames have burned through our plot freely without human intervention as we are interested in how firelines interact, intersect, and how different fuels spread and react to differing ignition patterns and wind intensities.

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Yes, that’s right, fixed zenithal mount, with passive damping and fixed forward tilt compensation. In my opinion, for photogrammetric tasks a fixed mount offers more advantages than an active gimbal. Not mounting a gimbal for a camera of these dimensions results in a smaller, lighter drone with more autonomy and less complexity as well as being cost competitive.

Normally when I perform photogrammetric missions with this fixed mount, I never use more than 75% overlat and sidelap, achieving very good results. Also, to say that this is using RGB, using thermal cameras you must be more careful with the overlap.

If you want to see real results, on the Helix-North website you have both photos taken with the drone and the fixed mount ready to be processed. And also, the maps already processed.


Matt can’t help you with smaller drones like you describe but we are about to release our production Freespace Callisto 50 which is a very robust large industrial modular multirotor system with up to 25kg (55lbs) of payload capacity which is BVLOS capable & can be configured for just about any mission.

It’s not what you are looking for but something to be aware of for doing more physical work or larger sensor payloads.

Freespace Callisto Industrial Multirole Modular Multirotor System

But he is not doing photogrammetry work so a fixed camera is useless or not ideal.

Is Autel acceptable? Is it on a banned list? They have a new supposed 8k drone with Mavic form factor and say they have a Flir option.

May be worth a look. It will be very hard to find an open source small Multi rotor platform with long range HD video at an affordable price — DJI killed off the competition in that category a while ago.

My opinion on DJI being banned from US Government use is “good riddance”. This is not unusual and there are many many companies and products on the do-not-buy lists for the same reasons. There is significant ongoing risk of data spills and espionage with any product owned by and manufactured by a company that is beholden to the Chinese government. It’s what they do.

I’m disappointed they arbitrarily grounded the fleet of Solos any anything else that has any Chinese components in it. That’s not based on any risk analysis and is purely knee jerk.

A great deal of our work is photogrammetry related actually. Much of the work I do is focused on creating pre and post fire 3d models and othomosaics that can then later be used to validate the CFD modeling runs that are done using many of the available fire behaviour modeling software. We are also taking during ignition imagery with a radiometric thermal camera as well as RGB imagery (which is often times not worth much due to smoke).

To be honest with you I am not real sure anyone has a clue of whats acceptable and what is not. This program is still in its infancy and is still quite a select group of people that are making the decisions and steering the program towards different platforms. I will say that some of them have experience with UAV’s but its a good ol’ boys club still and pretty hard to get into.

Couldn’t agree more here with @Marc_Dornan. I have used the herelink and it doesn’t even come close to the range the lightbridges get. I have tried 4g video works great when you actually have service and we are often operating in those areas without so its worthless. I have been playing with openHD with varying success.

The solo is pretty much used as their trainer UAS as there is no “support” and they are not allowed to use open solo even though it has massive benefits over the stock firmware they must use. Also when I quoted no support, was not to say there is no support just no support from the manufacturer anymore. @Pedals2Paddles you have done a great job bring life back to them, I have 2 solos and both have open solo 4.0 on them really still love to rip them around and have some fun with them! Need to update now that you have done some work with that notch filter and the pids.

The last I’d spoken to someone from DOI (many months ago), they had a large of fleet of Solos operating at wildfires. They had them equipped with ADS-B, operating along side manned aircraft. But I expect that to dwindle even without these rules since they’re eventually going to run out of batteries. And may also get tired of buying Solex since the 3DR app doesn’t work anymore on all the modern android and iOS versions. Even if they could use Open Solo, the sun would probably be setting on them soon anyway.

Operating along side manned aircraft is honestly not a big issue and ADS-B is not a requirement to be able to do so, good command and coordination is required to achieve this. Most aircraft in the FTA hardly pay attention to their transponder as the main rule is see and avoid, as well as ownership of the airspace via a TFR.

This may have been true months ago but had greatly dwindled after they allowed for a short period of time DJI enterprise M600, mavic’s and some M100, just flat out cannot beat their ability to stream high def video over quite some distances without a massive steup, plus the ignis was well intigrated into DJI M600. They have a massive fleet of solos and a shop full of parts and extra gimbals but I believe you are correct in this assumption,

It was a great platform and still is but things are getting harder to find batteries are getting quite old. The whole DOI/USFS program is kind of on its head right now. Especially since DJI is on the no-go list for now and looks like will remain there unless something drastically changes. The ease of getting replacement parts and whole new platforms, sensor integration, and available software right now for anything other than hobby type qaudcopters there is no one that can beat DJI (in my opinion) now are they the best, not by a long shot but they did work very very well for the use cases I have seen them used on, they did! I honestly enjoy building arudpilot based equipment as there are so very many use cases but just not readily available workhorse grade qauds that have the whole package from great sensor integration, constantly available parts among a few other nuisances.

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People were doubtful when the first smokejumpers landed on the scene, but it has transformed firefighting. Drones would seem to be able to eliminate a lot of the risks for humans. I will not be surprised when again, there is a revolution in fighting forest fires from the air.


We build a VTOL aircraft that is well suited for fire work and manufactured almost entirely in the US.
Our preferred payloads are a Lucint 32 for mapping or a Trillium HD25 for surveillance. Flight time is 5 to 6 hours. We are also working on a larger variant to carry a Trillium HD45 and fly for 7 to 8 hours. Would be interested to hear what you think.



I have actually had the luxury of being able to put my hands on one of your guys prototype VTOL’s and I must say hands down one of the best thought out designs I have seen. The gas/battery combination with the generator is awesome and it flew like a champ even in the miserable cold!

Glad to see you guys have found a camera for mapping with the lucint 32 is that 32MP. The EO/IR trillium 25 looks like a nice payload. I gave a few of your business cards to the BLM fella when I was in Alaska this summer. The hybrid project is exactly what the blm solicited when they requested CWN contracts a couple years ago. The few folks that have cwn contracts have unproven aircraft or are quite expensive and burdensome to mobilize. The fact that yours come in a nice pelican case and literally runs on saw mix are huge benefits. This can easialy be kicked out the cargo door and would have been nice to have on those days when no other air support was available and people wanted to see what their fire had done over"night". Have you finished the super Volo yet?

This is true they do but they will never be able to replace a human brain when it comes to decision’s, UAV’s are a vital asset that can be used to make more sound informed decisions.

All the development on SuperVolo is complete. We’re finishing up the first 5 now then rolling directly into production of 10 more. Got to show some pics. (I’m really proud of it)

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That is something to be proud of, looks damn fine!! I like the new simplified carrier board you built nice and clean, RFD integrated into it nicely! That pelican case is even better its a thing of beauty, nice form factor and clean design. Did you change up the electronics under the nose cone, I had heard you were reworking that as well, any chance of getting a look under the nose cone? Are these fuel injected or still carb?

Servers by jDrones