Insitu and Esri collaborate to test UAS for fighting wildfires



Insitu, along with Esri, which is a company that builds mapping and spatial analytics software, has successfully completed test flights using state-of-the-art software to support the firefighting efforts of firefighters and first responders.

The flights, which were held at the Warm Springs, Oregon FAA UAS Test Range, were aimed at helping firefighters suppress the Eagle Creek fire in Oregon, using Insitu’s INEXA Solutions professional aerial remote sensing teams, and the company's ScanEagle UAS.

In coordination with the Oregon Department of Forestry and other governing entities, the ScanEagle UAS was used to provide firefighters and first responders with “optimal, near real-time data,” which resulted in “heightened emergency response efforts, increased situational awareness and safety, and supported planning and resource allocation.”

The ScanEagle was able to survey fire lines at night over the fire—which had spread to nearly 49,000 acres throughout the Columbia River Gorge region—using the UAS’ electro-optical (EO), in daylight, infrared (IR) video for nighttime flights, and mid-wave sensors.

Thanks to its ability to operate in dense smoke and at night, the ScanEagle is ideal for supplementing manned firefighting fleets when manned aircraft typically can’t operate.

Smoke can be penetrated using infrared camera technology, which allows for the gathering and disseminating of geo-referenced still images of points of interest.

Geographic Information System (GIS) specialists can use these images to perform analysis using Esri’s Geographic Information System ArcGIS software.

The ScanEagle was the only “aviation over watch within the temporary flight restriction.” It provided constant nighttime oversight, and monitored the fire’s progression.

Manned and unmanned aviation assets were coordinated by Insitu, and through data collection, analysis, and integration capabilities, near real-time georeferenced spatial data (maps tied to specific known locations) was produced.

This allowed incident commanders, firefighters, and first responders to have data that delivered “updated incident perimeter maps, identified spot fires, located fire lines and hotspots, and provided near real-time video feed and still images of critical infrastructure, historical structures, and more.”