Firefighting UAV

Weber State’s Utah Center for Applied Innovation and Design (UCAID) has partnered with Utah Valley University to design a UAV Quadcopter for command and control during forest fires.  When fighting forest fires, the ground commander must always maintain radio communications and know where the fire is moving. 

The deep ravines found in the Rocky Mountains render FM radio communications and real time fire intelligence unreliable, greatly increasing the risk to the fire fighters on the ground.  UCAID has developed a UAV Quadcopter solution, which would be stable in crosswinds, carry an FM repeater to relay signals down into ravines, and have a video/thermal camera that tracks fire location. 

The traditional technical barrier to electrically powered UAV platforms is their limited battery life, generally 30 minutes.  Alex Hansen and Waynedon Veater, seniors in the Department of Electronics Engineering, have helped come up with a novel solution.  As work study interns at UCAID, Alex and Waynedon have developed a tethered power cable system, which will allow the UAV to stay in the air up to 8 hours at a time.  “It was challenging to make the tether system light, yet powerful enough to carry the instrument payload.  We were able to engineer a solution that works for the firefighters and that’s what has made this project fulfilling” said Alex.

Paul Hayes, the UCAID Project Director, said “that this UAV has the potential to revolutionize firefighting by providing a cheap and safe means for observing fires.”  Through the UCAID work-study program Alex and Waynedon were able work on an exciting project with real world applications.  Waynedon sums up his experience, “It’s been great to apply my classroom learning to a project that will make a real impact”.

UCAID is a partnership between Weber State University and USTAR.  Please visit for more information.

Originally written by Patrick Thomas and Jeff Jackson