Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University student Patrick Hunter has his career sights set on remote piloting drones to utilize uncrewed aircraft systems in exciting, new ways. Already, as a student in the Master of Science in Unmanned Systems program, he has been involved in a project using drones to track endangered turtles. Most recently, he worked on flying drones during a controlled fire, or prescribed burn, to experiment with improving tracking and predicting the movement of wildfires, and then integrating that information into the overall emergency fire response.
“The research is important because it will leverage the use of unmanned systems to collect atmospheric data at low altitudes around fires. With this data, we hope to better predict environmental conditions that affect the behavior of the fire,” Hunter said. “This would help firefighters by reducing their risk on the ground and help to keep them from working in an area that could rapidly be engulfed in the fire.”
The firefighting project, which involves Dr. Kevin Adkins, associate professor in the Aeronautical Science Department, and Dr. Marc Compere, associate professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department, was funded by NASA Small Business Innovation Research and is being led by Improving Aviation, a business founded by Embry-Riddle alumna Rocio Frej Vitalle (‘12).
According to Adkins, Improving Aviation has proposed developing a system to provide situational awareness — for crewed and uncrewed aircraft, ground vehicles and emergency workers on the ground — as well as a weather transmission standard to communicate information crucial to modeling the spread of wildfires in real-time.
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