Use of UAV or remotely piloted aircraft and forward-looking infrared in forest, rural and wildland fire management: evaluation using simple economic analysis

B. R. Christensen
2015 New Zealand Journal of Forestry Science  
Investment in emerging technologies may contribute to a reduction in the suppression costs of wildfires, and is thus worth careful consideration and trialling by researchers and managers. This investigation looked at the potential incorporation of a newly emerging remote sensing technology, remotely piloted aircraft and forward-looking infrared investigated using a cost-benefit analysis approach. Methods: An online survey-based approach targeting subject matter experts in wildland fire
more » ... t and unmanned aircraft was used to evaluate the percentage change in the effectiveness of five different management scenarios using remotely piloted aircraft and forward-looking infrared. The most commonly accepted economic model in wildland fire management was adapted to determine the net value change between the five scenarios. Results: The benefits of incorporated unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) or remotely piloted aircraft and forward-looking infrared were measured as the reduction in cost-opportunity of helicopter use, and were estimated as an average of $548 per fire (where the average cost of fires was $1767) or a 31 % cost saving on total suppression costs. The return on investment of such technology was estimated at 24 fires, whereas the return of investment of the existing thermal camera/helicopter use occurred after 160 fires. Conclusions: The incorporation of remotely piloted aircraft and forward-looking infrared if implemented and managed appropriately, could well improve the cost effectiveness of the current forest, rural and wildland fire fighting efforts. The inherent uncertainty on such unevaluated technology (the combination of remotely piloted aircraft and forward-looking infrared) was addressed by adding stochastic variability and a triangular probability distribution approximation. Key management issues and recommendations are identified such as; greater use of current thermal camera equipment where possible, taking a project management based approach for further testing of remotely piloted aircraft and other emerging technologies, and the improved financial recording and reporting of fire management efforts.
doi:10.1186/s40490-015-0044-9 fatcat:yox3epnmfjcutlexe6xpri42n4