Nasa´s Ikhana drone
13 Aug 2018

Command UAV design and its application in HazMat and fire scene Command & Control

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

The use of drones in military fields dates back to 1917 and the US army. In this 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, in addition to maintaining and developing their military applications, have gained widespread use and popularity in other science and technology realms too.


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

For a Word-download of the original document, please scroll to the end of this text.

The technological progress in Electronics and robotics has made it possible to witness ever-increasing bespoke production of 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 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:

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


The first "drone", or radio controlled unmanned military fighting aircraft by Charles F. Kettering, 1917. Photo by: Wikipedia

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


Diagram No.1 - Decision Making Model on actions and events


This model is consisted of three main components. The input of this model includes three main components:

-       Incident Information (II)

 - Resources Information (RI)

Hazard And Safety Information (HSI)


Accident Information Collection Structure

Incident Information (II) :

Collecting information of each incident is achieved by two general methods:


The first method – Pre-Incident Planning:

This model is primarily concerned with identification of all risk-generating factors, related risks, other potential occurrences, required resources, possible response and control methods provided prior to the incident occurring.

The second method – Information collection during the incident:

In this method, two ways of “ primary Size-up” that is usually conducted by the first responding officer at the scene and “ dynamic risk assessment” that is usually conducted by the incident commander or a specialist team are used. The first way deals with a preliminary size-up of the existing conditions and generic information gathering. In this way, three questions of why-when-where are answered. By answering these three questions, in fact, useful information about the cause of the fire, nature of the fire, how long the fire is broken out, available resources, crews and equipment at risk etc that is crucial in deciding on operation procedures can be obtained.

 In the second way, all existing dynamic risks of the incident ground are assessed so that required preparedness to respond to them prior to their occurrence is achieved. In this process, usually a great deal of attention is paid to all risks that may affect the incident and cause change in it escalating fire spread or weakening the existing control measures so that by identifying and controling them, occurrence of bigger incidents can be prevented


Information-gathering structure after reviewing firefighting operation management system and the accuracy of the performance of each component of the model, the importance of obtaining accurate and specific information from the incident ground is essential for the incident commander.

In other words, in each of the processes, the incident commander is only able to make right and accurate decisions when he receives precise and specific information about the incident In the case of having vague, insufficient or inaccurate information about the crews operating on fire ground, available resources, fire spread and the existing situation of the incident, the incident commander’s decisions are less accurate and the whole operation will likely end up with failure.


4- Operational capabilities, equipment and facilities capable of being set up on installable on UAVs.

As mentioned earlier, a diverse and ever-increasing range of applications of drones in different areas is possible. In this section, a brief overview of the equipment and devices that are capable of being mounted on drones as well as the operational capabilities of drones will be discussed.


4.1 One of the most useful and frequently-used equipment mounted on drones is imaging cameras that have the ability to send overhead live images in conjunction with a proper maneuverability.

In addition to conventional cameras that can transmit high-resolution images (Full HD) and digital zoom with good quality, these drones are able to carry night vision and thermal cameras. These cameras are used for night or special operations in Fire & Rescue, police, military, and security.


4.2 Carrying sensors and mechanical arms

Drones are able to carry multiple sensors and receive necessary and required information from the incident scene and send it to command post and dispatch center. Furthermore, by means of mechanical arms installed on drones, a sample of  materials and substances present on the incident ground can be taken.

4.3. Navigation and route tracking

One of the most important capabilities of the drones is possibility of navigation and positioning using global positioning system. Bird can fly to specific target and establish at that point through this capability. Through these capabilities UAV's can do following actions:


• Ability to intelligent return to the previously identified point in advance when low battery warning. This point can be defined in operation places (for example, in proximity command unit) or smart (for example in cyberspace nearest landing).

• Ability to define the limits of the no-fly map with continuous update in order to prevent unauthorized interference fly in n0-permit space. Thus, bird intelligently will not be enter of no-fly zones, confirm the command center warning, choose alternative routes and continue the flight.

• Ability to define virtual flight route map

In the city there are buildings with different heights and dimensions. On the other hand existence of power transmission lines, bridges, tall and bulky memorial emblems, cell towers and... Including UAV's challenges in automated flight.

Through definition the map including flight limitation, UAV's intelligently determine and adapt map-fly zones, as define the route and increase or decrease the height. Similar map-fly zones, allowed flight route maps will be updated continuously.


4.4. Tracking and individuals and local objects prosecution

UAV's are capable to trace the troops on the ground by radio transmitters definition on moving targets operations already in place; thereby enabling positioning, movement control and ensure their ability to move within the operation area.


4.5. Emergency landing

Climate change, loss of contact with the commander, technical fault in the electrical and mechanical systems, physical attacks damages and … may threaten the bird's flight. Because installation of sensitive and expensive equipment on drones, by emergency parachute system installation UAV's can perform emergency landing manual or automatically if no possible flight with at least damages.

This possibility is foreseeable for drones to land a predefined action in the nearest safe area, in case of danger or any damage.

Image removed.

Fig 2 - Emergency parachute system can be installed on drones


5. The use of UAV in fire-fighting operations command and control

In firefighting system survey, place and importance of online, continuous and accurate information earning from status of forces, fire behavior, environmental and local conditions and overall awareness of the available resources for commander were examined. Accordingly, in fire operation command element of "accurate and continuous situation advice" is one of the basic principles and foundation work. So drones can play an effective role in fire-fighting operations command and control. Following drones adaptive capabilities in command and control fire-fighting operations is examined.


5.1. Send UAV as First Responder Flying Object for basic information environment earn of the operation environment

In the fire-fighting managing process obtaining environmental detailed information delayed until First Responder Team and an initial assessment by the commander.

Because of testimonial reports are often no-complete, no-accurate and not trustable, so golden time after incident until leading team and early report is wasted.

In the event of a widespread crisis such as earthquakes, floods, landslides and so that usually ground arterial routes and communication infrastructure are damaged, UAV's can be quickly brought into all places especially impassable areas and by sending information the exact amount of damages and evaluation of the affected areas, the number of survivors, sensitive installations in danger and ... provide the possibility of accurate and timely decisions to a crisis management hierarchy. UAV's can be provide bilateral communication with survivors by installing sound equipment and send health and safety commands.

Also the planning and prioritization of aid, identify and assess the rubble caused by the earthquake and, etc. would be applied by drones.

     Mountain rescue operations often impassable and because of the track, areas identifying will be slow. Drones can quickly and at the least possible time find people in a large area with thermal cameras and the transmit images.


5.2. Performance management and tracking operations forces on the ground

One of the most important success factors for operational commanders at fire and accident management is optimize performance management of operational forces under his command in commands are run. In widespread fires according it is not possible that track and manage the forces unless by wireless and radio communication. Sometimes this communication cannot provide enough and necessary information for commander. Such as commander notice late to forces damage, it will be worse. Ground force tracking capability is possible by installation small-scale radio show on the helmet troops and moves them in place, the continuously ability to track a particular purpose and etc.


5.3. Live broadcast images of fire or accident

Managers and operational commanders of fire and big events need to view and investigate whole of affected areas, while by no means the possibility of simultaneous presence in every scene there. However, the larger the fire and accident (inclusive crises such as earthquakes, landslides, floods, etc.), the need is felt more. Online viewing accident, the spread of smoke and fire, the results of operational teams, injury or entrapment forces in the areas, ordering forces and the need to move and ... things that incident commander needs to full perception to manage the operation more complete.


5.4. Thermal and night vision cameras

Some widespread fire and incident occur at night or prolonged until night. Also because of limitation of using urban electric power, some idea must be taken to command view the scene. Simultaneous use of imaging camera (with a resolution of full HD) with night vision and thermal for the detection of living organisms (task force, busy people and animals), as well as incident will be necessary.


Fig 4 – vision capability of realm of fire with thermal camera (CVS)

Note: In large fires identifying exact realm location of the fire for dropping extinguisher by helicopters and airplanes is very important. Basically, thick smoke caused by fire is breaking from seeing.


5.5. Documentation capability

Fire management and big events not limited to times of crisis. Several occasions observed that the relevant principles requires first-hand documentation (before intervention operations forces) or documentation related to their operations; litigation and legal and forensic issues such as crime scene investigation, liability insurance, identify the cause damage to health insurance, the percentage of injuries, including notably the Task force is to determine the fault.

     In addition to the above, specialized studies such as the review of the report and documentation of the incident and assessment expertise and the issuing of instructions from the experiences of the big accident or fire, including cases that data provided by drones can be very important in the documentation.


5.6. Informing the victims at the scene

Injured and confined people are common at the scene of major fires and accidents. Additionally the population congestion, long distance operations forces - especially the leaders, managers and hierarchy of operating - with people caught in the early minutes, a plurality of equipment generating noise, all of which provide limitation of direct access to people caught and because of the distance voice communication between commander and the caught person may not be prepared even through the manually speakers. UAV's have the ability to send warnings and safety command to the on-site attendees through the embedded loudspeaker, sound amplifier and other voice and communication technologies.


5.7. Other Features

Typically drones are able to fly non-stop around 30 to 45 minutes. New technologies in the higher-capacity batteries allow increased that time up to an hour and even more. Also drones able to if low battery warning, intelligently lands in the pre-specified point (such as command vehicle) to replace the battery.



6. The use of drones in hazardous material incidents

Hazardous material incidents refer to those incidents as a result of the leak, fire or explosion occurred in the classification 9 of dangerous substances. Every year large amounts of hazardous materials has been transmitted and basement of Tehran Fire Department statistics nearly 11 percent of fuel leaking is due to car crash.

In more complicated hazardous materials incidents including flammable gases, oxidizing and corrosive are radioactive elements, hazardous material and climate parameters identification, is including important things that the incident commander need to know.

Generally, according to local law in Iran all-cargo carrier hazardous substances should be equipped to chemical label and with identification diamond of chemical hazards.

At hazardous materials incidents, the exact type of substances usually is identified from the information contained on the cargo. This requires that a group as the leading referred to near the scene and attempted to identify. UAV can be fitted with special equipment and approaching the accident site and hereby submit valuable information to the commander, so Task Force are at lower risk. Following the first to review hazardous substances events operation process will be discussed and then presented different aspects of applications of UAV's in hazardous material incidents.


6.1. Hazardous material incidents operations manage

Source of danger in hazardous material incidents can be at least one biological chemical and nuclear agent, that is out of control and easily have the potential to become a disaster. According to Chemical Abstracts Service, over 40 million of organic and inorganic recorded and categorized and for each have been designed different time of the accident, how and map response. Due to the plurality of chemicals and dangerous substances, in hazardous materials incidents, the first team that enters the scene of the incident is HAZMAT Team and sets his operational map initial based on three parts.

A) Obtaining basic information

B) Secure the scene

C) Isolation


 In all of these steps commander recognizing from the hazardous material leaking is very important.

One of the crucial parts of the HAZMAT Team is Entry Team or the team is collecting information. According to dimension of incident, this team includes two or more people that with the highest level of personal protective clothing enter the scene and gain information from possible injuries and announce to commander for isolation, secure surroundings and identification way of response. Usually HAZMAT team leader or commander needs to know two factors:

A) The type and name of leaks

B) Leakage in the day or night (less than 200 liters or 200 liters)

By signs and UN Numbers mounted on the tanks and boxes containing these substances, color, gas detectors or sampling first responder team try to provide information for commander that are so far and the commander refer to ERG or use special software and respective apps such as Wiser and decide about the type and level of incident, the team distance to the scene to observe a leak, emergency evacuation surrounding the incident due to the leak amount, distance and operation order of  decontamination and logistic teams.

According to the above drones are used in following objects:


A) Data gathering and primary size-up and sending information to commander, distance setting up and finally primary HAZMAT force preparedness by understanding substance variation and how protect against.

B) More quickly receiving data without any danger for HAZMAT team.

C) Reducing the risks amount and preventing secondary accidents

Then, offered an explanation on each of the capabilities and applications of UAV's in HAZAMAT events.


6.2. Basic information gathering from the area before the arrival of the troops

Given the importance of Proportion of hazardous materials incident by selecting personal protective equipment, and speed neutralize the released agent, knowing the type of accident before arriving will be most effective in increasing the speed in action and the selection of personal protective equipment. Drones equipped with cameras and imaging sensors are able to present at the site before the arrival of the troops and by sending information especially pictures, icons and materials specific label numbers to command vehicle tanks, help to perform operations more safely and in the shortest time possible.


6.3. Assess the type, amount and concentration of substances at the scene

Usually, after primary determination of variety and risk level of dangerous substance and task force equipped to clothes and instruments, primary rescue forces present at the scene and sample leaked substances.

Always there is risk of incident for leading team near the scene because of no-visible dangerous substance label.

UAV's are able to carry a variety of sensors and earn on-site necessary data operations and send the command unit. Including common sensor can be used in operation can be mentioned the gas sensor SO2, H2S, CO, O2, LEL cited. Also through installation of the mechanical arm can be able to on-site sampling if necessary.


6.4. Climate parameters measurement

One of the other important and affecting parameters at the hazardous materials operations management is earn scene detailed information from climate parameters, wind speed and direction, temperature, humidity, pressure and etc. Leaks of dangerous substances in the presence of wind can affect a radius of a few kilometers in area and put at risk other forces on the ground. UAV's are capable of measuring climatic parameters and send it to the command center in minimal time and help him to classification the areas of risk (high risk, medium risk and low risk).


6.5. Showing zoning for geo-referenced around the hazardous materials scene possibility

After presence of the scene, UAV's can earn climatic parameters, precise type of dangerous substance and determine coordinates geographical point by using of special software (such as "Wiser" software application and etc.) will list accurate and geo-referenced areas (as high, moderate and low risk). This will assist stage managers for adjacent areas residents evacuation operations in the shortest possible time.


6.6. Drones special Features for hazardous material incidents operations

• Drones are capable of driving by an electric motor that does not produce sparks during operation. It is important because that in the flammable gases leakage event in case of sparks from the bird engine at the scene, the accident could lead to an explosion.

• Because of low weight and strength of carbon fibers are used in drones. For HAZMAT incidents these fibers must be reinforced with extra cover against corrosive agents, substances and chemical fumes and hazardous materials.

• The UAV will be design aerodynamically to minimize airflow resistance levels and enhance agility and speed of bird. Of course in drones designed specifically for hazardous substances operation, to avoid the devastating impact of hazardous substances released at the site and disturbances in electrical and electronical systems, bird must be coated and isolated with required cover.

• Installation of mechanical arms with sucker pumps for sampling of leaked material and transfer it to the warm area for testing and identifying hazardous substance.


7. Conclusion

Using UAV's has been propagated in various fields of science. Due to their special abilities such as speed, agility, transportation of especial equipment (such as imaging camera), sending live images and …, day to day application scope of this type of new-equipment will be added. In this paper, after reviewing the history, formation and development of these birds, their special abilities and features was investigated. Then, after discussing about decision-making model in firefighting incidents and fires, studied accordance of properties and givable capabilities with needs and expectable capabilities. Then, because of the importance of HAZMAT incidents and high risk for at scene operations forces discussed comparative study between capabilities of the drones and hazardous material incidents. As for salient improvements in electronic, robotic and aerospace industries and component commercialization in Iran, UAV's designation and utilization in firefighting and HAZMAT incidents open new window to leadership, management and control of operations and prepare effective way to perform firefighting organization missions more efficient, fast, agile and accurate.


8. References

1. NFPA 472: Standard for Competence of Responders to Hazardous Materials/Weapons of Mass Destruction Incidents

2. NFPA 1026: Standard for Incident Management Personnel Professional Qualifications

3. Emergency Response Guidebook 2012, Us. Department of Transportation. Pipeline and Hazardous Administration.