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How Are Drones Used in Firefighting?

Using drones for firefighting allows firefighters to acquire critical situational awareness during an emergency, which helps in saving lives.

Last updated on

September 20, 2023

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Drones are eyes in the sky for firefighters. They can serve as an essential firefighting tool for people in the fire services, especially in and around urban centers, where a deadly inferno might occur in a high rise building. Firefighting drones can equip fire officials with the latest technology, and add complementary capabilities to the existing resources such as fire trucks, ladders, specialized suits, etc. Firefighters can now acquire aerial information in a quick, cost-effective manner.

In 2016, a tragic fire broke out in a warehouse in Oakland, California. The warehouse had been converted into a living space called Ghost Ship. The fire, which claimed the lives of 36 people, is one of the deadliest in the history of Oakland. Drones, equipped with a thermal camera, were used by firefighters to identify hotspots and search the unsafe-building after the fire was extinguished. The effectiveness of drones is rapidly catching on, as agencies around the world begin to adopt this technology.

In the US, more than 900 state and local agencies related to the emergency services are using drones one way or another; out of them, approximately, 186 is believed to be related to fire and emergency medical services.

Table of Contents:

Firefighting drones: How fire departments are using drones

Drones are increasingly used in firefighting operations for various tasks, such as providing real-time situational awareness, mapping the fire perimeter, and identifying hot spots. Equipped with thermal imaging cameras, drones can also detect people and animals in need of rescue, enabling firefighters to respond more quickly and effectively.

Utilizing drones in firefighting situations can provide valuable aerial support, including:

How Are Drones Used During Firefighting

Situational Awareness

In a typical scenario where a fire has broken out in a building, firefighters arrive at the spot and begin their operation with limited information about the extent of the fire and damage it has caused to the structure. Instead, with a fleet of drones, firefighters can begin with an aerial assessment of the scene and know the extent of the fire before starting their rescue operation using drones.

Reach difficult places

Drones are efficient in going to tight spaces since they are nimble and agile, and deploying them first avoiding putting humans in unsafe situations.

Thermal assessment

In a firefighting situation, firefighters work against the clock to save the lives and integrity of the structure. That is why it is important to direct their efforts towards the source of a fire.  Drones equipped with a thermal camera can assist firefighters to identify hotspots inside a blazing structure. Accordingly, firefighters can direct their efforts to bring the situation under control.

Search and rescue

Firefighters are actively involved in search and rescue missions. A thermal camera drone can do the job of 100 people by scanning a large area and identifying people in distress. During a natural calamity like an earthquake, thermal camera drones can fly over fallen structures and identify trapped individuals, and even identify dangerous leakages.


Advantages of Drones in Firefighting

Drones have emerged as indispensable tools in modern firefighting operations, offering a range of benefits that elevate their role in combating fires and enhancing public safety. Here are the key advantages:

  • Rapid Deployment: In the realm of firefighting, time is of the essence. Drones excel at swift deployment, swiftly reaching the heart of a fire much faster than traditional ground-based teams. Their ability to bypass obstacles and navigate challenging terrain ensures a quick response.
  • Aerial Insight: One of the most significant advantages of drones in firefighting is their capacity to provide vital aerial insights. By capturing high-definition imagery and live video feeds, drones grant firefighting teams an invaluable vantage point. This perspective aids in assessing the fire's scale, direction, and behavior, enabling more informed decision-making.
  • Thermal Imaging: Equipped with advanced thermal cameras, drones have revolutionized firefighting's detection and assessment phases. These cameras detect temperature variations, revealing hidden hotspots and smoldering areas that might otherwise remain unnoticed. This technology guides firefighters in targeting their efforts effectively and preventing potential flare-ups.
  • Night Operations: Fires often rage on even after the sun sets. Drones equipped with powerful spotlights illuminate fire scenes during night operations. This illumination enhances visibility for firefighters, aids in locating hotspots, and ensures safer maneuvering in low-light conditions.
  • Monitoring Progress: Firefighting efforts involve a continuous cycle of action and assessment. Drones play a pivotal role in monitoring the progress of suppression tactics. By observing the impact of water drops, fire retardants, or other interventions, drones enable on-the-fly adjustments, optimizing resource allocation.

In conclusion, the utilization of drones in firefighting presents a host of advantages that enhance the efficiency, safety, and overall effectiveness of fire response efforts. With their aerial capabilities, real-time data gathering, and specialized technologies, drones have become indispensable assets in modern firefighting operations.

Revolutionizing firefighting operations through drone-in-a-box systems

Drone docking stations, often referred to as drone-in-a-box systems, have emerged as instrumental tools in modernizing firefighting operations. These automated stations serve as integral hubs for the deployment, recharging, data transmission, and housing of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, designed to combat fires.

By providing a seamless launch and landing platform, these systems empower drone autonomy to execute critical tasks within firefighting scenarios, ranging from early detection to real-time surveillance and situational assessment.

Incorporating drone-in-a-box systems into firefighting strategies has brought about a paradigm shift in how emergencies are managed. Through advanced software platforms, these systems facilitate not only the execution of firefighting missions but also elevate them to new levels of efficiency and effectiveness.

Mission planning, live data analysis, and communication channels established between firefighting teams and drones enable a rapid and comprehensive response to evolving fire incidents.

Some popular drone docking stations for firefighting operations include:

  1. DJI Dock 2 (
  2. DJI Dock (
  3. Hextronics (
  4. Heisha (

Popular drone docking stations

FlytBase Advantage

Firefighting operations are inherently challenging, requiring rapid response, precise data, and effective coordination.

FlytBase emerges as a groundbreaking solution, offering a drone autonomy software platform specifically tailored for firefighting missions. The utilization of FlytBase in firefighting comes with a host of advantages that significantly enhance the efficiency and safety of these critical operations.

Centralized Command & Control Hub

Firefighters and commanders gain access to real-time HD video feeds from the drone fleet through the intuitive FlytBase dashboard. This live visual feed can seamlessly integrate into the command center screens, providing decision-makers with immediate insights into the evolving situation on the fire ground.

Command Center for real time monitoring

Real-time Thermal Video Feed

In challenging firefighting scenarios, such as thick smoke or obscured visibility, real-time thermal imaging becomes a game-changer. Operators and decision-makers in the command centre have the ability to view live thermal video feeds on the dashboard. This assists firefighting teams in pinpointing the hottest spots, tracking fire progression, and identifying potential hazards, ensuring a more targeted and efficient firefighting strategy.

Location of hydrant near the fire scene

AI-Enabled Fire Detection

An exceptional facet of FlytBase's technology is its utilization of artificial intelligence for fire detection. Harnessing sophisticated algorithms, the software can rapidly identify heat signatures and fire patterns within the drone's video feed. This AI-powered capability expedites the detection process, minimizes false alarms, and facilitates swifter deployment of firefighting resources once a blaze is identified.

AI based fire Detection

Seamless Integration with Firefighting Workflow

Through FlytBase’s workflow module, the software synchronizes with firefighting tools and sensors. For instance, when a fire alarm triggers or a smoke sensor detects abnormal conditions, the drone can be autonomously dispatched to assess the situation. This instantaneous integration enables firefighters to make informed decisions promptly and maintain situational awareness throughout the mission.

How FlytBase users are using drone docks for firefighting: Case studies

  1. Citymesh, headquartered in Belgium, is revolutionizing emergency response with the launch of SENSE, a network of 70 Safety Drones to support police and fire services.

    This groundbreaking system, the first of its kind in the world, equips emergency centers with Drone-in-a-Box (DiaB) solutions that are deployed within 15 minutes of an emergency call. The drones capture high-definition 4K and thermal images enriched with AI, providing crucial information that enhances the speed and effectiveness of emergency interventions.

    Read full case study:

  1. Thorr Enterprise‘s Chad Delude, a fire captain with Encinitas Fire Department, using the FlytBase platform, developed an aerial monitoring system that combines state of the art cameras and drone capabilities that detect wildfires faster and with more accuracy. 
    Source: (


In conclusion, the role of drones in firefighting, particularly those equipped with drone-in-a-box systems, is becoming increasingly significant. With their swift deployment, aerial insights, thermal imaging capabilities, and seamless integration into firefighting workflows, drones are fundamentally altering the way fires are managed.

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FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q: What is the main goal of using drones for firefighting?

A: The main goal of drones in the context of firefighting is to provide situational awareness so that firefighters can identify hot-spots and effectively direct their efforts to bring the inferno under control.

Q: Can Drones (UAVs) Put Out a Fire?

A: This is a common question that people often ask. A short answer is No, drones are more useful in acquiring situational awareness about the fire and its surroundings. Firefighters can use this information to control the fire and ultimately put it off. However, there are a few companies that are equipping drones with water hoses or fire extinguishing materials.

Q: How are fire fighting drones being used to help fight fires?

A: Drones provide cheap access to aerial data that can be used to acquire situational awareness in the event of a fire. Drones can also carry different sensors; one sensor that is used often is the IR sensor, which helps firefighters to identify hot-spots and even trapped people inside a structure. In a nutshell, drones provide the data to make better decisions.

Q: Will drones someday be able to carry hoses for firefighting?

A: It depends on the size of the drone. A big enough drone can carry a hose and fly close to a blaze. A drone with a hose can be very useful when there is a fire in a high rise. Ladders have a limited height but drones can fly higher compared to ladders, and they can fly close to a blaze without risking anyone's life.

Q: What thermal cameras are used in firefighting drones

A: Thermal cameras used in firefighting drones typically include FLIR (Forward Looking Infrared) cameras. These cameras are designed to detect infrared radiation, which is emitted by hot objects. This allows firefighters to detect hot spots in a fire, as well as locate people and animals in smoke-filled environments. Other thermal cameras used in firefighting drones include the Zenmuse XT2 and XT2R from DJI, and the FLIR Duo Pro R from FLIR.

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Baisali Ghosh

As a Marcom Manager at FlytBase, Baisali oversees the content strategy, creation, and management! With over 7 years of experience in the drone industry and 3 years of it at FlytBase, she’s a self-proclaimed drone fanatic and is obsessed with all things geographical. In 2022, she has been recognized as the “Women to Watch in UAS” for AI/Autonomy category by Women and Drones.

When she’s not busy hosting FlytBase’s webinar series or organizing NestGen - a global drone autonomy focused event, you can find her exploring the Patagonian Desert, the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, or the Yellowstone Caldera on Google Earth.

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