The drone can work nicely in the firefighting area. In the autumn of 2018, the smoldering fire on the grounds of the Wehrtechnischen Dienststelle 91 made nationwide headlines for a few days. At peak times around the moor in the Tinner Dose-Sprakeler Heide nature reserve, up to 1,700 rescue workers were busy preventing the fire from spreading further and protecting neighboring villages. In February 2021, the Emsland is back to unusual hustle and bustle. But this time there is no firefighting work in progress, rather there is drone operation over the Bundeswehraeal, which has been used as a firing range for more than 150 years. The aim of the unmanned aerial vehicle: to locate dangerous duds and remains of ammunition.
In large parts of Germany, potential dangers from warfare agents lie dormant in the ground. The aftermath of the extensive bombing by the Allies in World War II continued to have an effect at this point more than 75 years after the end of the fighting. On the basis of contemporary aerial photographs, particularly affected areas can be identified, in which no construction project can take place without a prior investigation. And yet again and again there are finds that can lead to risky defusing or controlled demolitions and the evacuation of entire city districts.
More efficient and faster
Where until a few years ago boreholes had to be drilled in order to search for electromagnetic traces of buried ordnance or the built-in metal, drones have been used more and more for a few years now. These can detect large areas much more efficiently and quickly and identify potential sources of danger up to a depth of several meters. For example, the construction company Matthäi relies on drone reconnaissance before civil engineering work ( we report in issue 1/2021 ), the company SeaTerra has specialized in the detection of ordnance by UAV and a research project is ongoing at the University of Ulm in order to be able to localize landmines by radar in the future.
Finding duds and remains of ammunition – after the moor fire in the Emsland, is also an increasingly urgent task for the Bundeswehr. The Tinner Dose-Sprakeler Heide nature reserve north of Meppen has been used as a military training area for around 150 years. And while one knows pretty well about the missed ammunition and its target locations from the recent past, long-forgotten explosives can make access to the area an almost incalculable risk. But not only for military reasons but also for ecological reasons, it is imperative to be able to travel safely on the site again. Since the extinguishing work in 2018, during which – according to the assumption – birch seeds entered the nature reserve with the extinguishing water, the deciduous trees spread rapidly in the high moor area. In doing so, they remove water from the soil and unbalance the delicate balance in the moor ecosystem, which is just as sensitive as it is valuable.
Civil air support
The armed forces rely on civilian air support so that heavy equipment for clearing the newly grown trees can safely enter the area and use as a target practice area can still be guaranteed. On behalf of the Bundeswehrdienstleistungszentrum Leer, SeaTerra employees fly over an area of up to 400 hectares with their modified DJI Matrice and collect precise geo-data from places where explosives can be suspected due to electromagnetic abnormalities. These can then be examined in a targeted manner by the ordnance disposal service and any existing dangers can be professionally eliminated.