The world-famous, 850-year-old cathedral, Notre Dame in Paris tragically caught fire on 15th April 2019. The entire world watched as firefighters battled the flames for twelve grueling hours. Some antiques perished in the flames along with the roof of the structure. However, the basic structural integrity was not compromised, thereby preventing the collapse of the cathedral. Apart from the heroic work of the firefighters, Notre Dame owes its credit to today’s cutting edge drone technology which helped save the ancient monument. Several drones were used to extinguish and analyze the fire, making it easier for the on-ground team.
DJI to the rescue
As per the French media, firefighters used two of DJI’s top UAVs to perform reconnaissance over the burning cathedral. Drones were sent up into the air to survey the intensity and movement of the fire in real-time. Not only was this approach cheaper and faster than helicopters but also much safer. The drones were able to close to the fire as opposed to their manned counterparts despite the blazing smoke.
However, the Paris Fire Brigade did not possess the two drones in their arsenal and had to borrow the commercially available drones from the Ministry of Interior and Culture, as reported by French media. DJI’s Mavic Pro and Matrice M210 were extensively used in this operation.
The Mavic Pro
The semi-autonomous drone took to the sky to provide live-feed of the fire from above the roof. Equipped with a 4K camera, 3-axis gimbal, the ability to track and orbit selected objects and half hour of flight time, the drone proved to be an ideal monitoring tool.
The Matrice M210
Unlike Mavic Pro, the Matrice M210 is DJI’s professional lineup of quadcopters. It is built to be more powerful than the rest. The five-kilogram drone is apt at obstacle avoidance, has a tough weather-resistant body, can smartly track objects and has various payload capabilities. The drone can be equipped with spotlights, camera rigs, gimbals, thermal cameras, and optical zoom cameras. In the given event, the use of this drone provided immediate feedback and highest-resolution coverage of the entire scene.
An interesting note in the operation of these drones is that generally UAVs aren’t allowed to operate in Paris. Also, as per DJI’s geofencing feature, the drone would not take-off anywhere near Notre Dame. However, DJI has a system in place which allows these restrictions to be lifted temporarily and thereby it assisted the French authorities to use the drones.
The fire-fighting Colossus
The ultimate fire-fighting UAV on the ground was sent into the structure to extinguish flames, provide authorities with the inside view and preserve certain artworks. The 500-kilogram land-drone Colossus, developed by Shark Robotics, is extremely resistant to water and fire. It is also mounted with a water cannon at the top. The drone is capable of transporting cargo and even wounded people. It is equipped with a 360° HD camera with x25 zoom, day/night thermal camera, NRBC sensors, etc. This drone is a vital part of the Paris Fire Brigade and the regional Fire and Rescue services.
Colossus was crucially useful as it was able to remain inside Notre Dame amidst the smoke and falling debris from the roof. Moreover, since the collapse of the iconic lead-and-wood spire, the interior was a particularly dangerous area for human firefighters to operate in. The continuous spray of water from the drone gave a cooling effect which is being credited for saving the priceless stained glass artwork. Also, its cameras relayed potent information to the firefighters in order to determine whether it was safe for them to operate inside.
Watch the Colossus in action: