Miniature Aerial Vehicles




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Conference Session C4 Paper # 2231

UTILIZING MINIATURE AERIAL VEHICLES IN WILDFIRE FIGHTING


Arthur Eichelberger (afe5@pitt.edu) and Thomas Tyler (tmt36@pitt.edu)


Abstract - Miniature Aerial Vehicles (MAV’s) are playing an increasingly dominant role in wildfire fighting due to their ability to utilize thermal and video observation to map a wildfire’s progression in real time, allowing firefighting crew to more effectively plan and execute counter-wildfire efforts.


MAV’s incorporate the latest technology, including the latest obstacle mapping technology, which utilizes laser range finders and optic flow cameras to project a real-time three dimensional map of the landscape underneath it, allowing the MAV to avoid collisions with ground based objects [1]. Additionally, MAV’s rely on fault detection and identification flight control systems that allow the MAV to isolate faults among actuators and appropriately reconfigure their trajectory, enabling them to fly with more reliability [2]. The technology and engineering found in MAV’s, allow them to fly faster, remain airborne for longer and behave smarter than their predecessors, and is quickly trending towards even more advanced capabilities.


Since about five million acres of land are destroyed each year in the United States due to wildfires, MAV use will reduce property damage from wildfires [3]. In addition, MAV’s reduce the risk to human life by replacing manned aircraft, all while doing it for a fraction of the cost of traditional counter-firefighting operations. As a result, MAV’s are rapidly becoming a highly valuable asset to the wildfire fighting community by saving both money and lives.


Key Words— Fault Detection and Identification, Flight Controls, Miniature Aerial Vehicles, Obstacle Mapping, Optic Flow Cameras, Wildfires

Miniature Aerial Vehicles


The Wright brothers changed the world when they first took to the skies in December, 1903 with the first heavier-than-air flying vehicle, but they never could have foreseen how their invention would evolve into the complex aircraft seen today. In the past century, aeronautical technology has underwent some of the most rapid and transformative development of any technology in history. Beginning with simple propeller driven aircraft, branching into rotary wing aircraft, leaping to jet engine aircraft, and finally, at the forefront of today’s technology, to unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs.

The technology behind UAVs has only been around for a few decades. It was not until the 1990’s that UAV production became a priority in the United States military, which is responsible for most of the recent developments in the field. As the technology progressed, UAVs continued to decrease in size, to the point where they could be appropriately referred to as miniature aerial vehicle, or MAVs.

It is often heard in the news of unmanned aerial vehicles being utilized by the military to find and eliminate terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, the potential uses of unmanned aerial vehicles are not limited to war fighting. In fact, the same technology can also be applied to the civilian world. “Small unmanned air vehicles are emerging as a promising means of monitoring large forest fires [4]”. Just as a terrorist needs to be located in order to find the most efficient way to eliminate him, so must a wildfire be tracked and monitored in order to find the most effective way to combat and extinguish it. With a minimal amount of effort, a crewmember can launch an MAV and have it deliver information about the position of the wildfire to fire fighters on the ground, who rely on that information to plan their counter assaults on the blaze. The MAV provides firefighting crews with an effective and efficient means of monitoring wildfires through the use of advanced technology.
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