Tracking Hazardous Aerial Plumes Using IoT-Enabled Drone Swarms

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Conference Proceeding


Emergency response teams are charged with ensuring citizen safety from life-threatening events such as structural fires, vehicle accidents, and hazardous material spills. While managing such events is dangerous, the release of hazardous materials, such as toxic chemicals, into the atmosphere is particularly challenging. Upon arrival at a scene, response teams must quickly identify the hazardous substance and the contaminated area to limit exposure to nearby population centers. For airborne toxins, this assessment is complicated by environmental conditions, such as changes in wind speed and direction that can cause hazardous, aerial plumes to move dynamically. Without a way to dynamically monitor and assess atmospheric conditions during these events, response teams must conservatively predict the extent of the contaminated area and then orchestrate evacuations and reroute traffic to ensure the safety of nearby populations. In this paper, we propose outfitting swarms of drones with Internet of Things (IoT) sensor platforms to enable dynamic tracking of hazardous aerial plumes. Augmenting drones with sensors enables emergency response teams to maintain safe distances during hazard identification, minimizing first response team exposure. Additionally, we integrate sensor-based particulate detection with autonomous drone flight control providing the capability to dynamically identify and track the boundaries of aerial plumes in real time. This enables first responders to visually identify plume movement and better predict and isolate the impact area. We describe the composition of our prototype IoT-enhanced drone system and describe our initial evaluations.

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