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University of Nebraska Public Policy Center

Enabling Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Fire Ignitions in Complex Firefighting Contexts

Prescribed fire is critical for reducing catastrophic wildfires and sustaining healthy ecosystems. Yet the technology to support fire ignition and monitoring remains stagnant, risky, and expensive. This project aims to develop the Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) technology that can transform prescribed fire ignition and monitoring by: 1) enabling the communication between UASs and humans by sharing the vehicle intention through maneuvers, 2) improving UAS operation by taking into account operator availability, 3) leveraging the operator’s knowledge to improve control of multiple vehicles, 4) fixing failures by enabling the operator and the system to work together, and 5) assessing the technological capabilities and associated users’ acceptance of this technology. This effort is significant because it addresses unique co-robotic challenges in the UAS domain and is transformative in its potential to change how a range of organizations maintain their ecosystems and manage wildfires.

The project aims at developing and assessing techniques, tools, and systems to dramatically improve the potential for UASs to safely ignite and monitor fire. To achieve that goal, it conducts multidisciplinary work on: 1) motion-based languages that communicate UAS intention and knowledge to operators and bystanders, 2) co-regulation methodologies that incorporate operator availability and attention into traditional control and planning loops, 3) integrative functions that map the environmental knowledge and domain expertise of an operator into a fleet of vehicles to support different levels of autonomy, 4) co-debugging techniques from program analysis that collaborate with the operator to help diagnose and overcome failures caused by misconfigurations and inconsistencies, 5) cross-cutting studies to gain a better understanding of the attitudes of stakeholders towards UASs, and the features that are likely to promote stakeholder trust and acceptance.

Visit the Nimbus Lab website to learn more about the project.

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