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CNET News Video: Firefighters testing new technology after Hot Shot deaths

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CNET News Video: Firefighters testing new technology after Hot Shot deaths

3:11 /

Technology previously used by the military could give fire crews an edge as they battle wildfires. The Wave Relay system, which uses Android devices, enables two-way, real-time voice and video communications, even in remote areas. As CNET's Sumi Das reports, the Prescott, Ariz., fire department, which lost 19 Hot Shot firefighters last year, is testing the technology.

[MUSIC] The 2013 Yarnell Hill fire claimed the lives of 19 Granite Mountain hot shots from Prescott, Arizona, when the firefighter's exact location couldn't be pinpointed. They were quickly being overrun by fire. And again some of the last words prior to them parachuting into the fire were where are you? Now technology originally developed for the military by New York based Persistent Systems aims to significantly improve two way communications between fire crews and wildfire command centers. Please [UNKNOWN] your sensor to that area. See if you can establish communication. Wave really, is mobile at heart networking. It allows every radio, to repeat through every other radio. No matter how they move, no matter how dynamic the situation becomes. In Prescott Arizona, firefighters are putting Wave, really to the test. It comes as a harness, and it, it, it gets affixed to your chest. And it's got a little flip down tablet as you can see right here. Then it's got a radio system here. The radio service personal cell towers for firefighters, enabling command centers to better track what's happening in the field. We've got a fire crew. We've got a couple of different firefighter elements. And firefighters to know more about the lay of the land. By drawing on a tablet an operations supervisor can remotely guide a fireman to a safer location. Pictures and live video can also be shared. Crews not only receive information via wave relay they can use an android tablet to send crucial information back to the command center. I can grab an icon that like a little water supply. iPhone. And I can drag it and drop it exactly where that water supply is. And everybody else can see that. You can actually look at an area, pull a helicopter over. And it will tell you if the area you're standing in is an adequate landing zone for that specific style of helicopter. Wave relay relies on line of sight for communication but there are ways to extend the range of the network. One way is to put a radio up on an airplane. No one gets to cheat the laws of physics, but wave relay hops around it. Mountain repeaters help signals hop over ridges. Drones are also used to connect radios. Wave relay also has a lot of applications with unmanned vehicles. Be it quadcopters or [INAUDIBLE] airplanes that you throw up, it's very small airplanes from 4 to 10 pounds, that go up and become a [UNKNOWN] relay, or provide their video feed down to the ground. While the [INAUDIBLE] relay system does show promise, it does need further refining [INAUDIBLE] as compared to a standard [INAUDIBLE] firefighting radio. So this might be something that would, you take off your chest and put it in your backpack. Cost is also a concern for fire departments. You're looking at here, in its prototype is about 10,000 dollars. Persistent systems and the Prescott fire department plan to continue the testing. Roger that, fireman one out. With an eye towards using wave relays during next year's fire seasons. In Minden Nevada I'm Sumi Das, CNET.com for CBS News.

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