Mar 07 2019
Public Safety

Can AR Glasses Help Firefighters Gain Situational Awareness?

In the future, fire departments may combine the use of augmented reality glasses and drones to improve operations and safety.

The 2018 wildfire season was the deadliest and most destructive wildfire season on record in California, and it included the blaze that destroyed the town of Paradise in Northern California, which became the single deadliest wildfire in the state’s modern history.

In situations like those, firefighters need all of the situational intelligence they can get, and sometimes the flames may be too intense to send personnel out to look for survivors or survey a scene. 

However, emerging technologies like augmented reality — in which digital information is overlaid onto a view of the real world via a headset, glasses or smartphone — can help first responders improve their situational awareness and their safety. 

Two companies, Epson and DJI Enterprise, are demonstrating how AR can help firefighters. The firms partnered late last year with the Menlo Park fire department in California to test their technologies. Using DJI drones and Epson Moverio AR smart glasses, the firefighters conducted an experiment to get a bird’s eye view of a fire scene beamed into the glasses. 

How AR Can Benefit Firefighters

The firefighters can gain more intelligence about what is going on in and around the scene of a fire via “a transparent display with the transmission coming directly from a built-in camera on the drone,” Virtual Reality Times reports. The firefighter piloting the drone gets a much more expansive view of the scene in real time without losing track of the drone. 

The AR glasses combined with the drone allow firefighters to help their fellow first responders navigate the terrain from a safe, remote location and warn them of any dangers, Next Reality notes. That can improve operational efficiency, including for search and rescue, and improve the safety of firefighters and civilians.

Additionally, with increased intelligence, firefighting teams are able to quickly determine where to send firefighters first to battle blazes and locations to avoid

Another fire department adopting the combination of DJI drones and Epson AR smart glasses is the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Services team in Canada. 

“It’s hard to imagine how we would have done this without that aerial perspective,” Chief John Lane of the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service says in a DJI blog post. “It’s been instrumental in providing really high-quality intelligence that we couldn't have seen in any other way."

DJI Enterprise/Youtube

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