At long last, we round out our trilogy of public safety demonstration videos built around two days of training exercises with the Eugene Fire Department, arranged by our friends at Rising Tide Innovations. We saved the best (or at least the hottest) for last: a burning building. Here it is!
Now, technically, the building itself isn't burning, because it's a training facility made of reinforced concrete covered in heat-resistant tiles like the belly of the space shuttle – but you could have fooled us, based on the amount of smoke pouring out and the number of firefighters moving inside to extinguish the blaze.
There was a lot happening in this scenario, and it was over very quickly. We only had time to put RQCX-3 “Raven” up twice before it was all over. However, during those precious few minutes, we were able to show what the drone could do.
First, with her FLIR thermal imaging camera, Raven was able to see through the smoke – which can sometimes be a misleading indicator of where a fire is actually located inside a structure – and provide an accurate picture of where the heat (and, therefore, the fire) was most intense.
Second, we were able to monitor firefighters working on the roof of the structure and look for places were it might be in danger of collapsing. Being a fireproof building, it wasn't actually going to collapse, but it was an important test because many firefighters are killed every year when they fall through the roof and directly into a fire.
All that you saw in the video. What you didn't see was that the firefighters working inside the structure were given a mission besides putting out the fire. They also had to find several “survivors” located inside the building. In this case, “survivor” means badly scorched mannequin, but you get the idea.
If we had more time, it would have been interesting to get some video form inside the building and talk to the firefighters about how they conduct a search in such harrowing circumstances.
Then, after the exercise was complete, Captain Markus Lay (whom you met in the video) threw down a challenge for Techinstein and Raven: read the license plate on a truck parked in a neighboring yard.
There were several chain-link fences as well as some railroad tracks between our ground station and the target – so this wasn't the most permissive electromagnetic environment for FPV flying – but both pilot and aircraft came through like champs.