SenateBill19 020Unmanned aerial systems (UAS), also known as drones, have become popular with industry and hobbyists alike. While they are very useful tools and bring the joy of flight to many people, they can represent a hazard to public safety when they are unauthorized and are operated at emergency scenes. The CoE will test and evaluate technology that can support detection, tracking, and identification (DTI) of unauthorized drones at wildland fires and other public safety events. If feasible, the DTI equipment will lead to technology-driven conclusions that validate the safe continuation of aerial firefighting operations at a wildland fire or emergency scene.

Senate Bill 19-020 was signed in June 2019 and charges the CoE to study and, if feasible, implement a system to patrol the airspace above a wildland fire.

UAS Detection Field Exercise

Detection Testingcuas fieldIn spring 2020 the CoE tested and evaluated technology that may be able to detect, track, and identify (DTI) unauthorized drones at wildland fires and other public safety events. The CoE will publish a report after the project is complete.

The CoE tested active radio detection of DJI drones (reading the content of the radio signals), passive radio detection of drone control signals (does not read the content of the signal, only detects it) and active radar detection of drones. The latter two work on any brand drone.

While the CoE gathered scientifically based measurements on detection range using a wide variety of drones in several fuel models and terrains, we believe receiving direct feedback from Wildland and other Public Safety practitioners during actual flight tests is a key factor in the report.  We planned to gather this feedback early this year, but COVID-19 caused us to delay this.  We have arranged with the companies to return equipment for a live CoE field exercise.  We believe a field exercise demonstrating the technology is revealing in a way the numbers do not fully communicate.

At this point, the CoE would like to conduct a UAS detection field exercise in late September or early October to gather your feedback. We understand the coronavirus pandemic impacts everyone and we wanted to know you are comfortable attending an in person field exercise assuming proper social distancing protocols are practiced.

Please click on the link below and complete the survey on your interest and likelihood of attending a drone detection field exercise this fall. The exercise would be conducted outdoors near Rifle, CO to maintain social distancing. The CoE would provide hand sanitizer and masks as necessary.


**The field exercise would be conducted outdoors near Rifle, CO and allow for proper social distancing. The CoE  would provide hand sanitizer and masks as necessary.

Public Safety Drone Risk Survey

The CoE is collecting data on if drones pose a risk to public safety agencies' responsibilities. The data will be used in the UAS detection report (organization names will not be published). Please click the link below to complete the survey.

UAS Detection Project Plan

The Center of Excellence for Advanced Technology Aerial Firefighting (CoE) proposes to test and evaluate counter unmanned aerial system (cUAS) technology within the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control (DFPC) to assist firefighting and emergency operations. The CoE will provide the access to simulated operations and evaluate the technology’s applicability of detecting UAS during wildland fire and other emergency response operations. cUAS technology will be used to support operational efforts with the intent to increase safety, efficacy, and efficiency on wildland fires and other emergency operations. Specific tasks to be evaluated are discussed further below.

The CoE is part of DFPC, whose mission is to protect the citizens, land, and resources in Colorado. Senate Bill 19-020 was signed in June 2019 and charges the CoE to study and, if feasible, implement a system to patrol the airspace above a wildland fire. The CoE will test and evaluate technology that can support detection, tracking, and identification (DTI) of unauthorized drones at wildland fires and other public safety events. If feasible, the DTI equipment will lead to technology-driven conclusions that validate the safe continuation of aerial firefighting operations at a wildland fire, training events, directed simulations or emergency scenes. For more information about the CoE and our staff, visit our webpage.

Studying the potential of UAS detection technology to support UAS DTI on wildland fires and emergency response operations is clearly within the purview of the CoE and is, in fact, an area the CoE has recognized for testing and development. For more information about the CoE’s current projects, refer to the appendix of this document.

Objective 1: Identify, test, and evaluate UAS detection technology that can support UAS DTI in controlled wildland environments.

Objective 2: Analyze data from tests on successes and failures with the intent to improve the use of detection technology for firefighting or emergency operations.

Objective 3: Publish a report on research and make recommendations regarding the deployment of UAS detection technology for emergency operations.

The CoE will perform research and identify how UAS detection technology could detect, track, and identify UAS to increase operational safety. The CoE will coordinate testing scenarios to test and evaluate the technology in Colorado. Tests will be conducted in structured environments (i.e., planned tests/events).

The CoE will gather objective, quantitative, and qualitative data based on UAS detection operations. When possible, the CoE will perform direct and measured comparisons with current methods with the goal of measuring the improvements or detriments to operations. The CoE will also conduct surveys of DFPC personnel and stakeholders to identify successes and areas for improvement within their respective operations.

The CoE will provide a final report with the findings from the study. The report will be public, but the CoE can protect proprietary information. As mentioned, for operational security reasons, the CoE may not disclose actual testing locations.