Nasa´s Ikhana drone
13 Aug 2018

Command UAV design and its application in HazMat and Fire Scene Command & Control


The use of drones in military fields dates back to 1917 and the US army. That year, Charles Kettering, from GMC Company, designed a two-winged drone for US army that had the ability of carrying weapons and hitting the target.  Today, drones have also gained widespread use and popularity in other areas of science and technology.



Authors: Mohammadreza Sheikh kazem Barzegari – Tehran Fire Department Ahmad Ahmad Moazzam – Tehran Fire Department

Cover Photo: (Abobe) UAV IKHANA - www.nasa.gov


The technological progress in Electronics and Robotics has made it possible to witness ever-increasing  production of a wide variety of these birds. For example, in fields such as enforcement and Governance Issues ( crime scene investigation and evidence collection), monitor and manage traffic incidents, police patrol, crowd control, emergency response to natural disasters, and fire and rescue services.

One of the first real modern uses of drones in fire and rescue operations dates back to 2007. In this year,  a large-scale fire broke out in the forests around Arohed Lake in California and unmanned aircraft called IKHANA was dispatched to the incident ground and flew over the area. NASA utilized the drone to evaluate and determine the scale of the incident.

However, as mentioned in the intro, the "embryo" for the first military drone, or unmanned fighting aircraft, was constructed already over a 100 years ago:

The Kettering Bug
The original "Kettering Bug" photographed shortly after its conception in 1918.

"In 1918 Kettering designed the "aerial torpedo", nicknamed the Kettering Bug. The 300 lb papier-mache missile had 12 foot cardboard wings, and a 40 hp engine. It could carry 300 lbs of high explosives at 50 mph, and cost $400. The "Bug" is considered the first aerial missile, and lessons learned from the "Bug" led to development of the first guided missiles, as well as radio-controlled drones.

The Kettering Bug was an experimental, unmanned aerial torpedo, a forerunner of present-day cruise missiles. It was capable of striking ground targets up to 121 kilometres (75 mi) from its launch point, while traveling at speeds of 80 kilometres per hour (50 mph). The Bug's costly design and operation inspired Dr. Henry W. Walden to create a rocket that would allow a pilot to control the rocket after launch with the use of radio waves. These designs would be the precursor to the modern-day missiles."

 (From the Wikipedia article on the US inventor Charles F. Ketterring)

By Greg Hume - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18121472

Photo by Greg Hume - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18121472

Model of Charles F. Kettering´s aerial torpedo on display at National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio




One of the most continuous concerns of operational managers within command and control of widespread fires, is catch of exact and online information from fire behavior and distribution and firefighter’s location at scene; although by reason of scene span, this faced with some difficulties. Also, in HAZMAT incidents, first responders’ sensitivity and risk acceptance is very high. Turn to usage, speed and agility increase of drones, increasing the strength and accuracy of decision-making and fire-fighting operations command and hazardous materials incident response can be very effective.

Other conceivable applications for UAV's in fire-fighting operations will be such as broadcast live images of fire or accident, observation and assessment of affected areas in times of crisis all-inclusive, the ability to track and control of the troops on the ground and to ensure that their ability to move within the range of operations, dispatch the bird as a precursor to the accident site and send information to the mobile command center point. In this article studies drones ability in tooling and utilization for managers and commanders decision-making and response power increase at the fire and HAZMAT scenes.


Among the most apparent applications of UAVs to Fire & Rescue Services is to primary evaluation of the incident area, record the extent and scale of the incident-induced damage based on information gleaned visually, make sure about the structural integrity for committing crews, investigators as well as command and control of the whole fire ground and crews working in the area.



2. Statement of the problem

One of the most overriding concerns of operational managers with regard to command and control of large-scale fires is to obtain specific and up-to-the-moment information about fire progress and whereabouts of the firefighters on incident ground. However, this is often difficult due to the extensive area of the incident. Loss of command and control of the fire operations can cause to considerably enhance risk acceptance of the firefighters working on the fire ground. In urban major fires like industrial warehouses and the like, fire scale and intensity is influenced by many internal and external factors. Among the influential external factors are wind speed and direction, available and nearby fuel sources, and among the affecting internal factors is fire load.

Continuous awareness of the position and location of the   firefighters and rescuers  and the extent of fire spread of fire suppression can raise and facilitate the decision-making for the incident commander over controlling and monitoring his crews and the incident ground as well. Drones specially designed for command and control of fire scene are, apart from being equipped with ordinary imaging cameras, equipped with thermal cameras so that they are capable of providing the incident commander with online and high-resolution images and videos from the incident area. They can also determine the exact location of the crews working in different sections of the incident ground. These thermal imaging cameras enable incident commanders to manage and control the incident more appropriately by displaying the fire temperature range at any moment.

Moreover, in responding to HazMat incidents, the degree of risk acceptance of the firefighters has always been a mounting concern. To this end, arming drones with detectors of some chemical gases, radioactive materials, continental and regional parameters (such as wind direction and speed, temperature, humidity, pressure etc), and thermal and night vision cameras is likely to boost the ability of making accurate and right decisions by the incident commanders over the operation.


3- Firefighting Operation management system


The main purpose of fire fighting operation management system, is to provide a proper and appropriate operational processes in order to ensure that by planning and implementing these processes as timely and accurately as possible, at the lowest cost and in the shortest possible time, the highest efficiency of the operation can be achieved. In recent years, firefighting operation management system viewed as one of the main elements of disaster management control systems in various industries and communities has thoroughly been examined, that finally, based on NFPA 1026, “ Decision-making Model ”. as the standard process of the firefighting operation management is identified.



Decision Making Model for drones in firefighting