On the 29th of March and for the whole weekend a team of six MSc Robotics students of Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL) participated at the ‘Swarm and Search Artificial Intelligence 2019 Fire Hack’. The team was sponsored entirely by the BRL ‘Bristol Robotics Laboratory’ and the University of Bristol in order to participate in the competition. The event was organised by DSTL (Defence Science and Technology Laboratory) in partnership with the AFRL (US Air Force Research Laboratory) and took place in Southampton. The aim of the competition was the creation of robust and automated behaviours of drones, in order to provide information to firefighters when wildfires break out.
Drones are already utilised by firefighters to gather information about the changes of the environment, but they are all teleoperated by firefighters. More robust solutions can be designed if drones can alter their behaviour automatically when the environmental conditions change. Potential can be seen when the drones operate in a swarm to map areas more efficiently. Additionally, the drones can be programmed to predict the dynamic behaviour of the fire front utilising artificial intelligence technologies.
The participants were utilising a software called AMASE which was created by the organisers of the event to develop dynamic environments simulating real wildfire scenarios. The software had information about the terrain and the environmental conditions such as wind direction and speed. Based on this information the drones were programmed to monitor and map the fire fronts. In addition, they were programmed to communicate with each other to pin-point areas with high priority in order to map the environment more efficiently.
The team managed to successfully create robust solutions to actively map the fires in areas that were affected by wildfires. It was a great experience which gave the students the opportunity to actively use their knowledge in programming and artificial intelligence in a real-life problem. The team bonding exercises gave them the opportunity to collaborate with people from different backgrounds sharing their ideas to successfully tackle the challenges of the competition.