Are Drones The Future Of Fighting Wildfires?

Aerospace and defense technology company Northrop Grumman held its annual Global Innovation Summit Sunday, which saw El Camino College and Hawthorne High School students engage in time-sensitive, simulated wildfire exercises that required quick drone-based solutions formulated on the spot, according to The Daily Breeze

We’ve seen a notable increase in both wildfires and the aviation industry’s disappointed response regarding interferences on behalf of recreational drone pilots. While unmanned, autonomous aerial responses to these emergency scenarios are technologically feasible and available, the Federal Aviation Administration’s bureaucratic process to garner rapid authorizations is arguably another unfortunate factor in hindering more proactive containment and extinguishing of wildfires. Northrop Grumman’s efforts here essentially aim to pool as many ingenious and innovative methods from the younger generation as possible, as fertile inspiration for the company’s collective brainstorming of aerially countering fires.

With the fire-bomber plane dropping its fire suppressant payload, the rover tasked with extinguishing it was provided with a few more minutes of vital time. In order to transport the rover to the simulated scene quickly, the heavy quadcopter was used. Meanwhile, the drop quadcopter was able to transport medical supplies to any survivors nearby. All in all, the five teams were given 10 minutes to contain each fire, before it spread to another location. 

Robotics clubs and engineering competitions are nothing new in both high school and university environments, but it’s inspiring to see drones enter the fold as a major new element for the student body. For companies as colossal and advanced as Northrop Grumman, observing what kinds of solutions and strategies young minds gravitate toward can be of substantial benefit and re-assessment of their own approaches. As for the students taking part in difficult, real-world challenges with modern day technologies, a re-evaluation of their own, regarding what is aerially possible, challenges their problem-solving skills and can expand their critical thinking. In terms of extracurricular activities, competitions like these put an adage like “sky is the limit” in question, and attempt to redefine it for our benefit.

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Also published on Medium.