In cases of wide-area fires it is essential to precisely locate the source of fires and the directions in which they are spreading. In a joint forest fire drill in Spain together with firefighters and forest fire experts it could be demonstrated under realistic operating conditions how airborne sensors from the VABENE++ project combined with the disaster management system of the PHAROS project can aid the firefighting effort. EOC contributed significantly to the new technology being tested.
At the exercise carried out from 2 to 4 March 2016 in Solsona, Catalonia, controlled fires were ignited in forested areas and then recorded with the EOC’s 4k camera system and other equipment. The camera system is an EOC development and is currently mounted on DLR’s BO 105 helicopter. It provides high-resolution, georeferenced aerial images for large areas that can be transmitted within seconds to distant ground stations. There, experts can use the images to localize the sources of the fires and determine the direction in which they are spreading.
The 4k system uses sensors from three professional, digital reflex cameras that have an exceptionally wide field of vision because of their different viewing angles. In increments of mere seconds, a sequence of images of the area on fire is immediately produced, corrected and rectified on board with the help of GPS and aircraft movement data and a terrain model, and then sent by a microwave data link to a distant ground station. Following a suitable flight pattern, a given area is successively mapped several times. The aerial images and the associated recording data are fed into a geographic information system which can then be used to monitor how the fire is progressing. At a flight altitude of 750 metres, ground resolution of ca. 10 centimetres is possible with the 4k sensor system. Large areas can be mapped because the swath width is almost one kilometre. This EOC development explicitly makes use of the high rate of innovation of the camera industry to provide a reasonably priced, high-performance photogrammetric Instrument that makes new products on the sensor market immediately available for professional applications.
In addition to the 4k system, the AirSig thermal sensor of the Fraunhofer Institute of Optronics, System Technologies and Image Exploitation was also installed on the DLR helicopter in order to reliably identify also hidden fire sources.
This camera development from the VABENE++ project could in the future be directly mounted on the helicopters of firefighters and rescue teams, providing images and contributing to a precise and up-to-date situation overview.