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article imageAugmented reality software helping in battle against wildfires

By Karen Graham     Aug 17, 2018 in Technology
As large swathes of California continue to be consumed by wildfires, some fire departments have turned to Augmented Reality to keep personnel in the field informed with real-time updates and information.
Firefighters are already making use of drone-mounted cameras to take 360-degree photographs of areas where fires have swept through neighborhoods. This post-fire imagery is proving to be helpful in analyzing the extent of damages, particularly in the Carr Fire.
Licensed drone pilots from several hundred miles away in Alameda and Contra Costa counties used drones to visit Redding over the weekend to help the city capture 360-degree photographs. The resulting imagery, embedded on another map, gives a brief glimpse of the Carr fire's devastation.
Using AR to live-stream incidents
The Alameda Police Department and the Menlo Park Fire Department sent personnel to help in fighting the Mendocino Complex Fire. The first responders are using drones outfitted with augmented-reality software from Edgybees, a startup based in Palo Alto.
Founded in 2016, EdgyBees started out designing games but has changed course this past year, taking on disaster response. With the EdgyBees software, drones can approach a fire, tracking firefighters’ locations, take live video, and feed video back to officials on the ground who can plot the data over the latest maps.
Edgybees' platform contains a set of unique, patent-pending capabilities packaged in the form of a developer SDK coupled with its back-end SaaS services. Edgybees' first program, DronePrix, allowed aerial drone owners to simulate a racing environment when it was released last year. However, Adam Kaplan, Edgybees’s chief executive, told StateScoop, “I was pretty bored because flying a drone around in circles is kind of boring."
As Kaplan explains, DronePrix caught the attention of DJI, a Chinese drone manufacturer which also sells equipment used by police departments, fire departments, and the U.S. Army. That exposure, along with some additional investment led to the development of another program, called First Response.
First Response shows its users the locations of landmarks, equipment, and personnel. It was first used last September after Hurricane Irma drowned Florida. The First Response program was able to give emergency personnel augmented aerial views of Miami and the Keys with street grids to help rescuers navigate inundated neighborhoods.
Kaplan also spoke with ZDNet's Greg Nichols, giving some additional insight into how the program works: "The unique nature of fighting fires necessitates the use of knowing the precise locations of teams, equipment, and potential hazards. EdgyBees augments live video feeds with geo-information layers, including maps, building layouts, points of interest, user-generated markers, and more data layers that provide visual context and operational intelligence."
Because EdgyBees allows for the relay of information in real-time between parties, it acts like a two-way radio for visual information, says Kaplan.
"The software and video is available to drone pilots, ground personnel and all distributed personnel and the footage is live streamed back to command and control centers to assist in making critical decisions immediately."
More about augmented reality, Edgybees, California, Drones, Wildfires
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