Drones and swarms

Rosenbauer Innovation Management cooperates with AEC Futurelab.

The future scenario is becoming a reality: a fire detector has gone off in a house, the fire department is alerted. The command center immediately sends out a swarm of drones equipped with video and infrared cameras as well as detection sensors. They can identify the seat of the fire, locate people, and detect environmental risks. Instead of controlling each drone, the commander issues a single command: "Please provide an accurate picture of the situation." The drones then fulfill their mission without any further action, completely self-sufficient, and in concerted teamwork - swarm intelligence is the magic word.

Intelligent swarms

Two years ago, the Ars Electronica Center demonstrated what intelligent swarms look like with a "drone ballet" in the Linz night sky. This year, AEC Futurelab turned to Rosenbauer Innovation Management to apply its artistic approach to practical firefighting applications. Alexander Ronacher and his team were immediately fired up about it. Together they started the research project "Intelligent cooperation of swarms or machines," which aims at controlling different ground and air devices, robots, and machines so that they can be meaningfully used in firefighting operations.

OS interface

In concrete terms, the Rosenbauer innovation team is now working on a concept applicable to firefighting to be able to activate several drones and/or machines. On the one hand, the engineers use a transmitter and receiver unit developed by AEC for the "drone ballet," among other things, which can be mounted on any drone or machine and functions as an interface to the operating system. On the other hand, they also have the Rosenbauer EMEREC operations control and information system in mind, which is to be expanded to include the swarm control function.

Fascinating journeys

The first steps have been taken, the Rosenbauer research drone takes off more and more often and shows where its fascinating journey could lead. Alexander Ronacher: "Imagine the cooperation between drones and machines: some act as 'Flying Eyes', exploring, tracking down, looking behind the scenes, what the operational crews can't see from the ground. The others, crawlers for example, start with first aid measures, dig for buried victims, or pull them out of the danger zone. The crawlers are transported by heavy-duty drones, which set them down over the scene. In the event of a fire, these drones have extinguishing agent on board and deliver it precisely over the seat of the fire. In the extremely dangerous development phase of a fire, for example, they represent the first attack squad from above. Even if such scenarios still sound very much like futuristic visions, the intensive examination of the topic already reveals numerous meaningful operational possibilities for firefighting and disaster protection.