Unmanned Systems Research Laboratory in Department-of-Forest Exercise “Hephaestus 2019”

Our Unmanned Systems Research Laboratory (USRL) has established itself as a key partner for the Republic of Cyprus Department of Forests (DoF), providing resources and technical expertise in fixed wing and rotary Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), so as to assist with aerial surveillance for the prevention and assessment of forest fires.

The most recent joint endeavor of USRL and DoF was the key participation of USRL in the large-scale DoF’s Exercise “Hephaestus 2019”, held in Kakopetria on Friday, 17th of May 2019.

The Exercise simulated the scenario of a wildfire breaking out in a densely forested, remote mountainous area of Cyprus. Terrestrial and Aerial Forces of the Department of Forests, the Fire Service, the National Guard, the Cyprus Police Aviation Unit, the Civil Defence Search-&-Rescue and the British Bases were mobilized for fighting the fire and ensuring the evacuation of people to safety. USRL participated with two UAS: a lightweight and cost-effective fixed-wing aircraft, and a small quad rotor UAS.

The fixed-wing aircraft, called Forest Surveyor (FS), is tailored-made for forest surveillance and aerial cartography for forest-fire assessment, forest-fire risk mapping, post-fire management and enhancement of operational safety of fire-fighting personnel. During the “Hephaestus 2019” Exercise, FS flew above the disaster area, providing live video-steaming to the Ground-Control through the on-board visual and thermal cameras, facilitating the post-fire and the early identification of possible rekindled fires.

The quadcopter UAS is a very fast and agile UAS, customized for emergency response. The role of this UAS at “Hephaestus 2019” was to provide rapid, on-the-spot inspections of difficult to access forest areas through real-time video.

The Exercise overall, and the USRL participation in particular, were considered by all Services as very successful. Video and photos may be found here.