ToolsNotToys: Blog Post #19

Every day, drones are used to make people’s lives easier. They have a number of applications across dozens of industries, and are used to make tasks more time efficient, financially efficient, and in some cases, to save lives. Drone’s have the capability to change how we work for the better. To put it simply - drones are tools, not toys.

 

Thermal Drones Making Impact Around The World

Drones with thermal capabilities are respectfully becoming the go-to tool for inspections and emergency response situations across the globe. The ability to gain real time and highly detailed thermographic data is valuable in a number of industries such as law enforcement, fire and SAR teams, utilities, Oil and Gas, hazardous materials and so on. 

Thermal drones use extremely intelligent sensors to detect heat signatures given off by animate and inanimate objects. These sensors are able to create detailed visual heat maps, indicating any risks or inefficiencies.

In the past few years, this cutting-edge drone technology has made some meaningful projects much easier. Here are some substantial instances we’d like to highlight. 

Search & Rescue in Vietnam

Last October (2020), Central Vietnam was flooded with violent rain. Some areas recorded over 90 inches, leaving millions in ruins. The continual flooding and unpredictable mudslides led to over a hundred lost lives.

The situation continued to escalate when a mudslide buried a remote hydropower plant, trapping workers inside. Conditions were so severe that sent rescue workers were challenged by the landslides themselves.

To ensure the safety of everyone involved, leaders in command contracted AGS Technologies to help locate individuals and map the treacherous terrain using drones. Primarily using an advanced Zenmuse H20T thermal camera equipped on a Matrice 300 RTK. Drones were able to briskly scan the rain-soaked terrain for heat signatures of survivors and allowed rescuers to plan accordingly. 

Time was of the essence and by deploying drones the AGS team saved time and potentially multiple lives in this treacherous situation. 

Chemical Fire in Bentonville, Arkansas

In December of 2019, a chemical fire broke out in Bentonville, Arkansas at an industrial plant. 

Thick toxic smoke was pouring into the atmosphere when four huge silos filled with highly combustible plastic products caught a blaze. 

For additional context, a 35,000 gallon tank of difluoroethane, a highly flammable and explosive chemical was in direct path with the raging fire. 

Firefighters wisely called the support of Unmanned Vehicle Technologies (UVT); a drone service company founded by prior firefighters and first responders.

The crew pulled up on the scene and deployed several thermal drones to gauge how dangerous the fire was. Using drones, firefighters were able to fly close up to the burning containers and capture thermal readings that otherwise would have been extremely dangerous to obtain. Without these readings, there would be no way to tell if the tank was about to blow up or if it was controlled enough to move in. 

Firefighters were able to provide a 360-degree thermal reading of the chemical receptacle and show how quickly the fire was advancing. This critical information enabled firefighters to create a safe plan, quickly advance in and safely extinguish the fire. Most importantly the tank was prevented from exploding and causing a significantly worse situation.

Chemical Leak in Sarasota, Florida

In November 2019, a gas alarm indicated a chemical outbreak in a Florida food distribution plant. Local hazmat squad arrived on scene and became informed that a highly toxic cloud of anhydrous ammonia was expanding somewhere in the facility. 

Hazmat coordinators deployed several drones with thermal cameras to investigate the surroundings. These drones were able to determine how severe the situation was and what gear was necessary to get the job done safely. If a fire had started the hazmat crew would need to wear high temperature suits opposed to specific chemical-agent suits. 

Drones were extremely advantageous in this circumstance by being able to provide detailed thermographic images from inside the plant as well as a bird’s-eye view of where the leak was coming from.

Understanding the situation through drone technology allowed hazmat workers to significantly improve visibility of the extremely dangerous situation, reduce risk, save time, and allowed continual monitoring of the mission and teammates.

What to Takeaway

Thermal drones truly have the ability to make dangerous yet essential procedures much safer. They offer perspectives and gain data that humans would otherwise have to risk their lives to get. With their maneuverability and ruggedness, thermal drones have been critical emergency-response tools saving lives, but also time and money.

Thermal capabilities continue to improve and the applications keep expanding beyond fire fighting and search and rescue successes. Nowadays, thermal drones are expanding into the agriculture industry to manage fields and livestock, and utilities companies are using them for a wide-range of inspections. Going forward, the benefits of advanced drone technology will more than likely grow to new and improved applications.

Sources: 5 Times Thermal Drones Made a Difference

DjiFirefightingPublic safetySarThermal

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