Drone Amplified, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln start up company, is using fire to fight fire and to reduce fire related fatalities. Led by Associate Professor of Computer Science and Engineering Carrick Detweiler, this company has designed drones to drop ping-pong size balls to start small fires to burn out vegetation that would lead to a much larger fire.They also made the drones easier to control by using a software program that has the drone automate the tasks it carries out. “We get a lot of great responses from customers about these small features, which really makes the system work better for them,” said UNL graduate Evan Beachly, chief app developer . “Our software adds autonomy and mission planning, allowing users to set it all up and press ‘go.’
It also has a thermal camera to help firefighting crews with nighttime operations. “It’s normally too dangerous to fly at night over a fire, but with this drone, there’s no possible risk to human life,” Detweiler said. “It provides situational awareness at night to safely fly and ignite burns, which really gives ground crews an advantage during the daytime.”
Thanks to local investments by various organizations as well as grant awards, Drone Amplified is seeing business success. “Nebraska has a very supportive startup community, with a lot of people who want to see success locally,” Detweiler said. “This investment gives us the ability to be a little more strategic and think about where we should be spending time, especially because we work with federal customers in a highly regulated area.”
While Drone Amplified’s product represents a distinctly different way to fight fires, the team foresees drones becoming a standard tool, as normal as picking up a fire hose or calling in a bulldozer. It’s a vision they’re working to fulfill.
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