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Fighting highly dynamic and unpredictable structure fires can be very challenging and dangerous for firefighters. They need full situational awareness of the fire as it evolves. In these situations, it is difficult for firefighters to gain insight on whether they are winning or losing the battle against the fire. By gathering thermal images of a burning structure, our Thermal Imaging System will be able to provide real time data to help first responders mitigate risks associated with unpredictable fire dynamics.

The FAA is currently modifying and creating more regulations to address integrating UAVs with the existing aviation network. This makes it difficult for us to test our full system because we do not have the proper permits necessary to fly our aircraft. Another limitation we have is testing the thermal camera system with actual fire due to potential safety issues.

Our approach when designing our system was to design and implement separate functional subsystems that could be integrated together to create the full system. Our unique solution incorporates a highly agile UAV with a thermal imaging camera and custom software which collects, manages, and stores data received from the UAV. The system will also provide real time analysis and trends of received data.

We hope that our thermal imaging system can help provide fire fighters with critical information that they would otherwise not have access to. With this information, fire fighters will be able to make more informed decisions when responding to a fire emergency.

Publication Date



Electrical and computer engineering, UAV, Thermal, Fire, Camera


Electrical and Computer Engineering | Engineering

Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Tim Bakker

Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Carl Elks

Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Peter Maxwell

Faculty Advisor/Mentor

David Young

VCU Capstone Design Expo Posters


© The Author(s)

Date of Submission

August 2016

Enhancing Fire Fighter Situational Awareness with Remote UAV Thermal Imaging