Small, Low-Cost Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for CAL FIRE Reconnaissance (UC Merced)

Team Members: Luis Bernardo, Chase Heckman, Kevin Kirkpatrick, Mark Lazzaro, Alexander Martinez, Jorge Nunez, Kelsey Nze, Erik O'keefe, Angel Sepulveda

School: UC Merced

Wildfires are a major part of California’s ecology and take a large amount of resources to monitor, contain, and ultimately suppress. Cal Fire is the state entity that is responsible for suppressing wildfires in California. Operations help improve the ecology of the local habitats by protecting rare and/or unique ecological resources, as well as protecting human property. Air-fighting resources such as fixed and rotary winged aircrafts are often used in fire suppression efforts. However, these tools are expensive to utilize and sometimes pose safety concerns such as pilot fatigue and low visibility flight. The goal of this proposal is to reduce the use of full-scaled crew-carrying aircraft by using small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) in fire monitoring operations. Their project will create an UAV that could provide 24-hour monitoring to reduce the cost and increase the safety of wildfire monitoring. This would allow for traditional aircrafts that monitor fires to be used for different missions (e.g. water drops, short hauls, or resupply).