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The Future of Wildfire Management: Evolving from Detection to Suppression with Advanced Drone Technology

The Future of Wildfire Management: Evolving from Detection to Suppression with Advanced Drone Technology


The summer of 2023 marked a significant milestone in wildfire management with the adoption of drone technology for hotspot detection. As we approach the summer of 2024, the potential shift from detection to active suppression using drone technology, particularly with the introduction of heavy-lift drones, is a promising development in wildfire management.


Advancements in Drone Technology for Wildfire Suppression

Recent advancements have introduced heavy-lift drones like the DJI FlyCart or Draganfly Heavy Lift drone, capable of carrying substantial payloads. These drones are ideal for transporting fire suppression materials, such as fire extinguishing balls, which are discussed in the MDPI article by Michael J. Starek and colleagues.

Fire Extinguishing Balls: Specifications, Effectiveness, and Impact on Wildfire Fighting


The fire extinguishing balls, such as the Elide and the AFO, represent an innovative approach to wildfire suppression. The Elide ball, weighing approximately 1.5 ± 0.2 kg with a diameter of 147 mm, and the AFO balls, available in sizes ranging from 0.5 kg to 1.3 kg, are designed to be environmentally friendly and heat-activated. In controlled experiments, a 0.5 kg AFO ball was effective in extinguishing a circle of short grass fire with a diameter of about 1 meter. This capability is crucial for addressing smaller hotspots that can escalate into larger fires if not promptly managed.

The use of these balls in drone-assisted wildfire fighting can significantly aid firefighters. By deploying drones equipped with fire extinguishing balls to manage smaller hotspots, wildfire fighters and helicopter crews can allocate their resources and attention to more active and larger fires. This targeted approach allows for a more efficient distribution of firefighting efforts, ensuring that larger and potentially more dangerous fires receive the necessary focus and resources.

Proposed Workflow for Drone-Assisted Wildfire Management

The envisioned workflow involves two drone teams: the detection crew and the suppression team. The detection crew uses scouting drones to identify hotspots, which are then communicated to the suppression team. The suppression team, equipped with drones carrying fire extinguishing balls, can promptly address these hotspots. This coordinated effort enhances the efficiency and effectiveness of wildfire management.

Future Developments and Challenges

The integration of both detection and suppression capabilities into a single drone platform is the ultimate goal. However, this requires advancements in battery power technology for extended flight times and heavy payload lifting. Currently, the technology is most effective for managing small hotspots, as using drones to fight large, active wildfires remains impractical.


The summer of 2024 could witness a significant evolution in using drone technology for wildfire applications, moving from detection to suppression. The introduction of heavy-lift drones capable of carrying fire extinguishing materials like the Elide and AFO balls, effective in extinguishing small-scale fires, represents a major advancement in wildfire management. Ongoing research and development are crucial for overcoming existing limitations and fully realizing the potential of this technology in combating wildfires more effectively and safely. Drone-assisted wildfire fighting not only enhances the efficiency of suppression efforts but also allows for a more strategic allocation of resources, ultimately aiding in the broader fight against wildfires.

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