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Video: Boeing Using Drones and Augmented Reality to Fight Wildfires

01 December 2016

Fighting wildfires is extremely dangerous for firefighters and support personnel. While aerial firefighting has helped in this regard, Boeing is working on making the process much safer by using unmanned aerial systems and holograms.

The aircraft manufacturer is using holographic tactical maps of its ScanEagles UAVs, helicopters and firefighters to direct resources to where they are needed the most. The engineers hope to be able to use augmented reality (AR) technology to one day control an entire fleet of UAVs for commercial use.

Wildfires are not just dangerous to those that are on the ground or in the air, but also very labor intensive and costly. Dangers also arise when multiple aircraft, vehicles, departments and support services are moving about, trying to contain the blaze. Unmanned systems help to reduce this cost, reduce the danger, and get a better idea of where the fire is moving and what are the right targets to hit to better control it faster.

How It Works

Using Microsoft’s HoloLens, Boeing has taken tactical map displays from its ScanEagles drones and put them in AR. Engineers can put an aircraft in a 3-D mixed reality map, and the drone knows how to fly its orbit or pattern automatically.

The drones are equipped with infrared cameras and other sensors in order to provide a real-time map of where the fire is, the areas that may be affected next, and where those on the ground may not see areas burning.

Using AR, multiple people can wear HoloLens at the same time in order to interact with each other and communicate with others in the field to provide them with the best up-to-date information about the wildfire they are trying to contain.

Beyond fighting fires, Boeing sees this technology as a useful tool in large-scale reconnaissance work such as monitoring shipping or train loads, or allowing farmers to gauge how their crops are performing from the air.

To contact the author of this article, email Peter.Brown@ieeeglobalspec.com


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