Swarming Drone Hackathon Challenge “Fire Hack”
UK’s Dstl and USA’s Air Force Research Laboratory Partner to Find Drone Solutions for Wildfires
In a unique partnership, the UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) and the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), in collaboration with the Wright Brothers Institute (WBI), are inviting individuals and teams from across industry, academia and the general public to take part in drone development event “Swarm and Search AI 2019 Fire Hack.” Fire Hack is about developing (‘hacking’) algorithms for drones to tackle the wildfire problem, with obvious military applications.
Swarm and Search AI 2019 Fire Hack
Using a bespoke synthetic environment from AFRL, Fire Hack is aimed at developing new and innovative ways to use unmanned aerial systems (UAS) to assist the emergency services to deal with wildfires.
According to Dstl, this pioneering initiative event aims to find new ways of using UAS for global search and rescue in defence and the public sector. Scenarios will be run in parallel with the US via a continuous video link with the WBI in Dayton, Ohio who are hosting the same event in the US.
Dstl’s Aerospace Systems Group Leader, Tim Wright, said: “The speed and ferocity of the devastating wildfires in California demonstrated the need to develop new ways of using science and technology to assist the emergency services wherever possible. Small unmanned air systems or ‘drones’ – in the right hands – could offer a way of reducing the burden on the emergency services by mapping and tracking a wildfire in real time, autonomously, so efforts can be focussed rapidly where they’re needed to save more lives.”
The hackathon will explore innovative ways to plan missions using multiple systems to assist in the identification and prediction of how wildfires will spread and subsequently find preventative solutions, minimise damage and save lives.
Tim Wright added, “We are reaching out to industry, academia, tech start-ups, coders, anyone with new ideas and an interest in drones, artificial intelligence or autonomy to help us find and develop new concepts of controlling drones in the most efficient and effective ways to give as much assistance to the emergency services as possible. This event will be a fantastic opportunity to spend a weekend with some of the best minds in the business from the UK and US, collaborating simultaneously with the Wright Brothers Institute’s hackathon.”
Fire Hack teams will use a range of collaboration platforms to explore different fire scenarios with an increasing level of complexity, working with experts from the Fire Service, Dstl and the wider Ministry of Defence. Dstl and AFRL are using this innovative approach to find the best Artificial Intelligence or Machine Learning algorithms that embody efficiency and resilience.
Mick Hitchcock from the US Air Force, said: “It is fantastic to be able to work with Dstl on this project. The activity fits right into both countries’ desire to approach research differently, and involves non-traditional innovative thinkers as partners and most importantly get results faster. The competition is not between the two countries, but to highlight the ability to rapidly work together on tough problems.”
The Fire Hack organisers are particularly interested in the algorithms and artificial intelligence necessary to control the behaviour of drone swarms. This means developing robust and resilient autonomy for drone swarms and ensuring collaborative behaviour between individual drones, as well as taking the challenge further to look at how drones can, not only respond to fires, but also predict them.
From ‘Spark’ to AUVSI XPONENTIAL 2019
The winning team from the UK hackathon will be offered a unique opportunity to present their winning ideas and proposal for further exploitation at the British Embassy in Washington DC. Costs for travel and accommodation will be provided where appropriate. The winning teams from both the US and UK hackathons will also be recognised at the AUVSI XPONENTIAL 2019 unmanned and autonomous systems trade show.
The UK and US hackathons take place simultaneously from 29 to 31 March 2019, with the UK event taking place at the ‘Spark’ Facility at Southampton Solent University.
According to UK Defence Minister Stuart Andrew, “Collaboration in innovative research between the UK and US continues to push the boundaries of advanced technology. This hackathon will bring together the best and brightest from academia, industry and the public to discover new ways to utilise life-saving drone technology.”
Image: A 45 Commando Royal Marine with a Black Hornet 2 at the Army Warfighting Experiment AWE17 disruptive technology event (Crown Copyright, 2017).