OSU researchers hope new tech will help in battle against wildfires

Local News

COLUMBUS (WCMH) – As the wildfires continue to burn out west, a research team in central Ohio is working on a way to prevent future fires from being as devastating.

For the second straight day, there was smoke from the wildfires in the Columbus skies Tuesday.

The project at the Ohio State University was in the works before this most recent round of fires, with researchers hoping one day to help crews on the ground.

“It’s just heartbreaking, what’s happening out west,” said Mrinal Kumar, associate professor for the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at OSU.

The technology Kumar and his team are working on will hopefully help in keeping future fires from spreading as much.

“We are basically trying to map out the fire better and faster so that we can give firefighters enough lead time to prepare for what’s to come next,” Kumar said.

The team in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering has been working with the School of Environment and Natural Resources and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Part of the technology they’re developing involves using drones and flying them above controlled burns.

“The science doesn’t change,” Kumar said. “It’s still a fire. It’s just the source of the fire is different and its location is different, but the basic principles remain the same, so that’s why the results we get from a controlled burn will extend to a wildfire as well.”

The team wants its tools to eventually compliment technology crews out west are already using. Kumar said the idea is that by using information from several different sources plus the new technology, they’ll be able to better forecast how fires are going to move.

“To be able to use sensor data, turn it into intelligent information and combine it with forecasting we get out of computers, bring it all together in a manner that leads to the most robust forecast of the fire that can then help the first responders,” Kumar said.

Kumar hopes the technology is ready for use out west in a couple of year, saying they still need a lot more work over controlled burns.

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