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Drone technology to fight Europe's growing forest fires

Wildfires in Europe have become more frequent and more intense as a consequence of climate change. Three companies are now teaming up to develop a drone solution with artificial intelligence that will give firefighters better odds of winning the battle against the flames.

35,340 km². That’s how many square kilometers went up in smoke in Europe over the last six years, an area larger than Belgium. More frequent and ferocious wildfires have fatal consequences for people and wildlife, as well as the economy of the areas it affects.

Now, three partners from Europe are joining forces in a new EU project to help firefighters combat this in the future.

Since 2019, the Danish company Robotto has been working on a drone-based solution to assist firefighters. Building upon this, they are teaming up with the Danish Technological Institute (DTI) and Spanish drone company FuVeX to extend and strengthen the assistance tool for firefighters. The new partnership will do this by developing a long-range drone solution that can monitor small scale active ember sites and active flames in large-scale – on top of providing real-time fire maps to fire responders during the day and at night.

- Providing firefighters with key mission data in real-time has long been the focus at Robotto and we're excited to work in collaboration with FuVeX and DTI to provide 24/7 long-range aerial intelligence to firefighters and extend our system to include detection of people and location of equipment, Kenneth Richard Geipel, Co-Founder CEO of Robotto, says.

The Danish-Spanish collaboration, also known as FIREDRAGON, just received €900,000 from the EU-supported innovation program Eurostars.

Hidden fire pockets

Wildfires are a normal part of the forest's life cycle, but in recent years the fires have become hotter, more frequent, and harder to control.

In 2021, around 1.76 gigatonnes of CO2 were emitted into the atmosphere from wildfires. To put this in perspective, that is more than half of the entire yearly emission of EU. The damage inflicted by wildfires in 2022 alone is estimated to be at least €2 billion.

This is why the three innovation partners in FIREDRAGON agree: It is vital to provide firefighters with a powerful intelligent robotic solution for their toolbox.

- Today, firefighters already use drones, but mainly just as simple cameras. We see a need and an opportunity to develop the drone from being just an eye in the air to also providing fast, operational information through a combination of the latest technology platforms, sensors, and artificial intelligence, Jeshith Damsbo Anandasubramaniam, a specialist at DTI, says.

With the addition of the drone solution in the field, firefighters can except to automatically spot hidden pockets of fire, which look dead, but can flare up again later.

- Dealing with fires when they are small is enormously more resource-efficient and effective than dealing with them when they are already raging. It also makes the firefighting job less dangerous, Jeshith Damsbo Anandasubramaniam adds.

The night is decisive

Due to rising temperatures and drought, wildfires are increasingly intense and tend not to "die down" at night. There is currently no method for collecting fire data in low light conditions, as FIREDRAGON utilizes thermal imaging, the solution will be the first to offer a full picture of the fire at night.

- We know with certainty that the devastation caused by forest fires is only going to increase in the next years. Therefore, we need to provide emergency services with reliable, all-weather and easy to use drone technology to protect European societies from this catastrophe, Carlos Matilla Codesal, founder of the drone company FuVeX in Spain, notes.

The first step in the project is to engage in dialogue with firefighters and emergency management agencies in both Denmark and Spain, so that the technology and user interface meet their real needs.

Do you work with firefighting and do you have input for the development? Then you are welcome to contact one of the project partners below.

Kenneth Richard Geipel

+45 31 33 57 66

Carlos Matilla Codesal

+34 645591466

Jeshith Damsbo Anandasubramaniam

+45 72 20 35 50


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