I have decided I lack imagination when it comes to all the things that you can do with drones.  The list seems endless.  Firefighting is a great example of the power of one of these small airborne devices…the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), or drone.

UAVs are proving to be highly valuable when it comes to getting on a fire rapidly and ultimately saving lives and possibly the structure. These small UAV’s are equipped with a thermal imaging camera. It enables firefighters to scan for lingering hotspots, which, if not extinguished, can reignite fires and hamper recovery efforts.

Whereas video cameras see reflected light in the visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum, thermal imagers can see the infrared band, invisible to the human eye. It’s like being able to see the radio waves from your Wi-Fi hub.

Thermal imagers can clearly illuminate not only flames and hot gases, but people whom responders would otherwise never see in smoke-filled buildings. They then display those images vividly on small hand-held devices or, more recently, on tiny screens built into firefighters’ breathing masks.


Thermal imaging cameras have been a growing part of firefighters’ gear package for years. Departments have been snapping them up at a record pace. An assessment by the National Fire Protection Association showed the percentage of fire departments equipped with the technology rose from 24 percent in 2001 to nearly 80 percent this year.

Over those years, these thermal imaging gadgets have more than proved their worth. The logical next step was to make them airborne. Enter the age of the drone. An UAV can give firefighters an edge. It allows them to pinpoint over a larger area and direct their resources right where they need to go.

This has even become more critical with the shift in fuel sources inside a building creating more fast moving fires. These fast-moving fires have become the norm, in large part because of the plastic and other synthetic materials inside. The fuels inside of buildings are different than they used to be 30-40 years ago, when they were cottons and wood fibers, all the natural materials. Now products are petroleum-based and that is like gasoline. The fires burn a lot faster now.