The Center of Excellence for Advanced Technology Aerial Firefighting has been awarded the 2020 POPULAR SCIENCE Best of What’s New Award in the security category, for its work on the Team Awareness Kit (TAK).

“We are grateful to the U.S. Forest Service Fire and Aviation Management for their support implementing this program,” said Brad Schmidt, CoE Wildland Fire Projects manager, in a press release.

“We would also like to thank the TAK Product Center for making this app freely available for public use,” said Schmidt.

“This system was originally developed by the military for use by special forces, and now enables first responders to reliably transmit location information, collaboratively map an incident, and access other tools that improve the safety and efficiency of their operations, even if traditional internet connections are degraded or absent.”

The CoE first fielded TAK with Colorado firefighters in 2018. In 2020, the TAK Product Center made a version of the app available as an open-source project, allowing first responders to easily gain access to the technology for free. In 2020 the CoE also collaborated with the U.S. Forest Service to develop a TAK capability for wildland firefighters, and the CoE conducted a pilot project deployment of the technology on the Grizzly Creek Fire.

During this pilot project, the CoE deployed the TAK app with 28 fire crews on the Grizzly Creek fire for 13 continuous days. During this time the app allowed firefighters to view the locations of others in real-time, and provided firefighters access to updated maps, fire perimeters, and infrared video clips of the fire

Every firefighter surveyed during this pilot project agreed that TAK improved their situational awareness. Firefighters used the app to navigate to new fire starts, coordinate fireline digging, and maintain the safety of firefighters during night operations.

Read more on the TAK system here.