Sky Eye Wing: The Novel Sustainable Solar Powered Infrared Wildfire Surveillance Unmanned Aircraft System With Intelligent Autopilot Software

By: William Y.
Year: 2024
School: Fairmont Preparatory Academy
Grade: 9
Science Teacher: Afsaneh Miller

In the realm of wildfire management, the introduction of the Sustainable Sky Eye Wing marks a significant advancement. This innovative unmanned aircraft system (UAS) is specifically designed to assist fire personnel in detecting and monitoring wildfires. The Sky Eye Wing incorporates a suite of cutting-edge technologies, making fire surveillance easier and more efficient.

At the heart of the Sky Eye Wing’s capabilities is its design. Each wing is equipped with five solar panels, harnessing the power of the sun to ensure extended flight durations. This sustainable energy source is complemented by six high-capacity 11.1V Li-ion batteries, providing the necessary power for prolonged surveillance operations even in adverse weather conditions.

The Sky Eye Wing is equipped with an autonomous flight computer featuring GPS, which enables automatic return-to-home functionality. This ensures that the UAS can safely return to its base even if communication is lost. The user-friendly configuration app further enhances the system’s utility by allowing operators to set waypoints and routes effortlessly, ensuring optimal coverage of surveillance areas.

The Sky Eye Wing excels in real-time surveillance. It is equipped with a 5.8 GHz long-range First Person View (FPV) system and an extended-range LoRa radio. The 5.8 GHz FPV camera, mounted on a 3D printed pan and tilt head, provides comprehensive 360-degree coverage. This setup allows fire personnel to monitor high-definition video and telemetry data over vast distances, facilitating rapid and informed decision-making during wildfire incidents.

The Sky Eye Wing utilizes a 915 MHz LoRa radio to relay crucial data to an ESP32 S2 ground station. This ground station serves as a portable display unit, providing real-time visualization of wildfire data, including infrared images captured every five seconds by the MLX90640 infrared camera. This information, such as fire temperature and detection percentages, is vital for assessing the situation on the ground and coordinating an effective response.

The homemade autonomous airplane is built around an RP2040 microcontroller, with components soldered together and programmed using Circuit Python and INAV code. This meticulous assembly and coding ensure that the system operates seamlessly, capturing and transmitting data with high accuracy.

During the testing procedure, radio tests revealed excellent 4-mile range communication, crucial for extending surveillance zones. The 2.4 GHz radio and receiver maintained a robust connection with an average RSSI of 68% over four miles, while the 5.8 GHz video transmitter, despite its shorter effective range, provided high-quality video until signal dissipation occurred at approximately two miles.

The motivation behind the Sky Eye Wing is underscored by recent wildfire incidents, such as those in Coastal areas and Maui. These events highlighted the urgent need for advanced, sustainable fire detection technologies. The Sky Eye Wing addresses this need, offering a versatile and scalable solution that can be rapidly deployed to cover rugged terrain and extensive areas during wildfires.

The system’s autonomous flight capabilities, combined with its versatile mounting bracket, make it a formidable tool in wildfire prevention and monitoring. By allowing fire personnel to set pre-programmed waypoints and routes, the Sky Eye Wing ensures thorough and efficient surveillance, reducing the likelihood of wildfires escalating into catastrophic events.

By integrating solar power, advanced microcontrollers, infrared cameras, and long-range communication systems, it provides fire personnel with an unparalleled tool for managing and mitigating wildfires.