UK and US team up to create drone swarms for emergency services

Participants will model scenarios to combat wildfires and help search and rescue teams

Military services in the UK and US have partnered on a unique drone hackathon with the hope of creating innovative tools for combatting wildfire emergencies.

The joint effort, supported by the UK's Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) and the US' Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), invites engineers to develop unmanned aircraft systems to help combat wildfires and and assist in search and rescue missions, providing support for emergency services.

The hackathon, which has been organised in collaboration with the Wright Brothers Institute (WBI), will also look into ways drones can be used to predict how wildfires will spread and develop ways to prevent them occurring in the first place.

Researchers will be expected to model different scenarios to see how wildfires are impacted by different environmental conditions. It will also look into collaborative behaviour to see how drones can be used together in a 'swarm' to more effectively to combat wildfires.

However, the government wanted to stress that the outcomes will only be used to investigate into wildfires and not by the military for any other actions, such as spying or military engagements.

"Collaboration in innovative research between the UK and US continues to push the boundaries of advanced technology," Defence Minister Stuart Andrew said.

"This hackathon will bring together the best and brightest from academia, industry and the public to discover new ways to utilise life-saving drone technology."

Participants from both the UK and US will work in teams and the winning teams will attend the embassy in the US where they'll present their ideas and exhibit at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International in April.

The UK competition is due to start on the 29th March at Southampton Solent University.

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