IISc researchers develop algorithm for drone swarms to control forest fires, natural disasters : The Tribune India

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IISc researchers develop algorithm for drone swarms to control forest fires, natural disasters

The advantage of using drones is that the decision-making is decentralised, based on data, and aimed at maximum efficiency.

IISc researchers develop algorithm for drone swarms to control forest fires, natural disasters

Photo for representation: iStock



Tribune News Service

Aksheev Thakur

New Delhi March 21

The researchers at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) have designed an algorithm that seeks to use multiple swarms of drones to tackle natural disasters like forest fires.

Forest fires are becoming increasingly catastrophic across the world, accelerated by climate change.

“A swarm of drones could be the solution. By the time somebody identifies and reports a fire, it has already started spreading and cannot be put out with one drone. You need to have a swarm of drones. A swarm that can communicate with each other,” said Suresh Sundaram, professor in Department of Aerospace Engineering, IISc.

The solution was to design a special kind of algorithm that would allow the swarm to communicate with each other as well as make independent decisions. When an alarm is raised about a potential fire, the swarms can be sent in, each drone armed with cameras, thermal and infrared sensors, and temperature detectors, to spot the fires. Once the fire is discovered, the drone closest to it becomes the centre of the swarm and attracts others towards it. Interestingly, each drone will also have autonomy to calculate the fire’s size and potential spread, and decide how many drones are needed to quench the fire, the researchers say.

“These decisions are made by the drones. They figure out which cluster of fire is going to spread faster, and allocate the required number of drones to put out that fire while the others look for other fire clusters,” Sundaram said.

The advantage of using drones, Sundaram points out, is that the decision-making is decentralised, based on data, and aimed at maximum efficiency. No more than the required number of drones will be assigned to a fire cluster, allowing others to fan out in search of other clusters.

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