Perimeter

Researchers performed calculations to determine how many drones would be needed for attacking a wildfire

swarm of collaborative UAVs fire
Figure 1. (a,b) Representations of the proposed firefighting system based on the use of a swarm of collaborative UAVs. (From the research)

The person who was awarded a patent in 2017 for describing a system of drones that could be used to drop liquids on wildfires wrote a paper earlier this year with two other authors that claims to have determined how many drones would be needed for suppressing a small section of a fire.

The patent, #WO2017208272A1, awarded to Marco Ghio, is quite vague and does not supply any technical details. It says that instead of applying fire retardant or water in a conventional manner, a “rain” concept would be used:

Dropping small quantities of firefighting liquid or drizzling it over the fire, and its subsequent spreading on a large area instead of in a concentrated manner. This method, both theoretically and experimentally, is acknowledged as being particularly effective, whereas, on a practical level, it is effectively used in domestic and/or industrial firefighting systems.

swarm of collaborative UAVs fire
Diagram from the patent

In the United States fire retardant dropped from an approved air tanker is applied at coverage levels ranging from 1 to 9 gallons per 100 square feet, depending on the situation. It is not clear what coverage level “rain” would produce.

Drawing from the patent drones firefighting
Drawing from the patent

The patent specifies that drones would transport the liquid in removable containers. Upon returning empty to the mobile base the containers would be autonomously replaced with full containers, along with a charged battery if needed.

The drones and the other equipment would be transported in standard metal shipping containers which would be strategically positioned. The system would include “a control unit for the coordination of missions, the flight paths to be followed, and the selection of the ideal drop points optimized according to the environmental conditions.”

Details about how all of this would be accomplished are not specified.

The patent and the research paper written by Mr. Ghio,  Elena Ausonio, and Patrizia Bagnerini assumes that the cargo capacity of the drones would be 5 to 50 liters (1 to 13 gallons), much less than currently carried by helicopters (up to 3,000 gallons) and fixed wing aircraft (up to 17,500 gallons) that routinely fight wildfires.

Their analysis (below) takes into account wind speed, flame length, the length of fire line to be suppressed, and the dead fuel moisture. It indicates that about 75 linear meters (246 feet) of the fire’s edge could be extinguished with 120 drones each carrying 20 liters (5 gallons) or 80 drones carrying 30 liters (8 gallons). The vegetation is assumed to be grass or brush, but not timber. The example below assumes that the wind speed is 20 km/hour (12 mph) and the dead fuel moisture is 18 percent. A moisture content of 18 percent for 1-hour and 10-hour time lag fuels is quite high for a very active wildfire. It should not be very difficult to suppress a  fire under those fuel conditions.

Number of drones needed to suppress wildfire
Figure 4a shows the linear meters of fire that can be arrested by using the firefighting system. For example, approximately 70–75 linear meters of active front can be extinguished with 120 drones each carrying 20 L or with 80 drones carrying 30 L. Assumptions are that the wind speed is 20 km/hour and the dead fuel moisture is 18 percent. (from the research)

Our take

In my opinion the most difficult part of using drones to assist firefighters would be applying the retardant or water at the exact location where it can be useful. That is difficult enough when you have good communication with ground personnel, adequate aerial supervision, and experienced highly qualified air crews in helicopters or air tankers.

I don’t think the principle of “rain” in the application of retardant or water from dozens or hundreds of drones is a thing, at least when you’re talking about drones that can just carry a few gallons of water and must have the batteries replaced every 20 minutes. The suppressant still has to be delivered in a timely manner in a quantity and at the location where it can be useful. Maybe when drones are carrying 50 to 100 gallons of water, and the technology improves for placing the retardant on target, it might be useful in very remote areas when the fire is very small, less than 1/10 of an acre, and the wind speed does not exceed 5 mph.

Rain Industries is working on an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) that could carry up to 400 pounds of cargo, or 50 gallons of water.

Drone Amplified, the developer of the IGNIS prescribed fire system currently being used for aerial ignition, and Parallel Flight Technologies, have received a $650,000 grant from the US Department of Agriculture to support further development of a large-scale Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) for prescribed fire. Parallel says their hybrid gas/electric UAS can carry 100 pounds for up to two hours, numbers that are much larger than battery operated drones. When paired with the upgraded aerial ignition payload under development which will hold and dispense 3,500 incendiary spheres, it will have eight times the payload carrying capacity of drones being used today, and ten times the flight duration.

The paper was published by MDPI, which is food for thought.

Hybrid rotor/fixed wing drone was used extensively over Schneider Springs Fire

Takes off vertically then transitions to forward flight for up to 12 hours

Bridger Aerospace's L3 Latitude Engineering FVR-90
Bridger Aerospace’s L3 Latitude Engineering FVR-90 unmanned aircraft, N171RE, on the Schneider Springs Fire in 2021. Still image from IMT’s video.

In August and September a hybrid rotor/fixed wing unmanned aerial system (UAS) was used on the Schneider Springs Fire in Washington which burned more than 107,000 acres northwest of Yakima.

The aircraft has been used on fires since at least 2020 and is an L3 Latitude Engineering FVR-90, a model first produced in 2019. It is owned by Bridger Aerospace. Unlike drones that need a catapult to take off or a net to be recaptured, the FVR-90 can use the four electrically-powered rotors to take off and then transition to the rear-mounted gasoline-powered propeller for forward flight.

While staying aloft for up to 12 hours it can orbit over a fire at 10,000 to 12,000 feet above other aircraft and can use standard visual video cameras or heat-sensing infrared technology to monitor and map fires, transmitting imagery to firefighters on the ground in real time. On the Schneider Springs Fire it was used primarily at night.

The FAA has granted special authorization to fly the aircraft beyond visual line of sight within the temporary flight restriction (TFR).

This could be an important tool toward what I call the Holy Grail of Wildland Firefighter Safety — knowing the real time location of the fire and personnel on the fire.

In a comment regarding another article about drones, Tom Jones pointed out this excellent video that explains the system’s capabilities and how it was used in Washington this summer.

Unmanned aircraft on wildfires — what have we learned?

By Sara Billings and Shaughn Maxwell

Type 3 UAS Module
Joe Milligan and William Bowman of the National Park Service Type 3 UAS Module.

Background

Fire Season 2021 has forced Incident Management Teams to be creative in how they engage with fires. One of the ways teams have been successful is with the use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), informally known as drones.

Unmanned Aircraft Systems are now used regularly for commercial, military, public and private applications. Experts suggest that while this technology is already impressive, it is still in its infancy. Some have described the state of UAS technology like being in the pager stage before cell phones. Many government agencies, even those regulating UAS, are struggling to keep up with the pace of development and spread of UAS use in the national airspace.

Previous reports have been published regarding the utility of UAS on wildfires. The intent of this post is to use the Schneider Springs Fire to frame current and potential UAS applications for wildland firefighting operations.

The Schneider Springs Fire

Operational Picture

The Schneider Springs Fire on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest started when a lightning storm blanketed the northern Cascade Mountain Range on the evening of August 3, 2021. During the next several days, the fire grew quickly in record hot and dry conditions. It was burning in heavy timber, standing dead trees, and very steep terrain that was difficult for ground resources to access.

“The UAS program will pay for itself by reducing the mental and physical wear and tear on our people.”

THOM TAYLOR, NIGHT OPERATIONS BRANCH, SCHNEIDER SPRINGS FIRE

The Schneider Springs Fire is being managed under a full suppression strategy. However, due to the large number of fires in the region and nationally, as indicated above, there are a limited number of available firefighting resources. When PNW Team 2, a Type 1 Incident Management Team, took over the fire it was at only three percent containment after another IMT had been managing the fire for two weeks.

Type 3 UAS
Type 3 UAS with Ignis PSD.

How UAS Were Used on Schneider Springs Fire

Swing Shifts

Swing shifts allowed both day and night operations to benefit from the UAS. Swing shifts are often used as an opportunity to make the most of burning conditions. This approach was noted to synergize UAS opportunities by making the most of both day and night fire behavior.

Burning at Night

The Type 3 UAS was used extensively at night for Plastic Sphere Dispenser (PSD) burning operations.

Intel Gathering

The UAS were able to access portions of the fire that were inaccessible to other aircraft, as well as areas that had limited visibility due to smoke.

Providing Real-Time Data

The Type 1 UAS on night shift was used to fly Infrared (IR) over the entire fire.

The Type 1’s data interpreter was especially useful when the U.S. Forest Service’s National Infrared Operations (NIROPS) orders were Unable to Be Filled (UTF).

After the Type 3 was used for PSD burning operations, it was then able to get back up in the air to grid for spots in the burn area—providing IR immediately after burning or gridding deep in the green through thick smoke.

Both the Type 1 and Type 3 UAS were used concurrently during burning operations. The Type 3 burned and the Type 1 looked for spots. Once they located a spot fire, these UAS could “walk” suppression crew members on the ground to a spot’s lat/long—always being within a few feet of the spot fire’s location.

Type 1 UAS
Kelly Lewis, BLM Alaska Fire Service, with a Type 1 UAS.

What Are We Learning?

Benefits

  • Better intel leads to better decisions. UAS can now improve how we manage risk by limiting exposure when scouting, patrolling, and firing.
  • UAS can identify spot fires. They also increase confidence that spots are being found—that you wouldn’t otherwise know about.
  • The UAS can support patrol operations with high effectiveness and less people, ultimately reducing exposure.
  • Smoke was not a limiting factor during UAS PSD or recon operations. Utilizing the UAS provided precision PSD operations, related to both timing and geography.
  • UAS can reduce the human exposure involved in helicopter PSD operations.
  • UAS can fly in smoky or foggy conditions not ideal for manned aircraft.
  • A UAS can cover more ground than a person on foot over various terrain conditions.
  • Night operations means no conflict with other aircraft.

Challenges

  • More aircraft increases the coordination workload – including between manned and unmanned aircraft.
  • Air Operations and ground operations must coordinate on priorities for the entire incident.
  • With few UAS modules available, the existing ones are often required to drive back and forth trying to cover more than one fire incident.
  • The learning curve of not having previously worked with UAS.
  • Not knowing what products the UAS can provide, having no set standards.
  • For the Type 1 UAS it can take 24-48 hours to get it running on an incident—due to FAA approvals, Temporary Flight Restrictions, Landing and Recovery Zones (LRZs), Land Use Agreements, Mission Aviation Safety Plans, etc.
  • There will always be a need for manned aircraft. In terms of situational awareness, drones can’t see what a person looking out of an aircraft can see.
  • Current UAS availability is a limitation. There are not enough pilots, aircraft, or modules to meet the demand. Regional UAS Coordinators work with incidents and the Geographic Area Coordination Centers (GACC) to set priorities for the modules and equipment. In doing so, they try their best to meet the needs of the fire and the region. There are a lot of pressure points: A high demand for the equipment; the pressure of “use it or lose it”; and the pressure to burn even if conditions aren’t right.
  • A UAS connected to a suppression module, such as a hotshot crew, means that you’re pulling one to three hotshots off the crew for UAS operations which may limit the crew’s capabilities.
  • UAS modules are not standardized. Currently, there is no established configuration. Equipment is often shared, including: big TVs, batteries, staffing (most modules are interagency), trailers vs trucks.
  • UAS have limited flight times. The Type 3 drone has anywhere from a 15-25 minute flight time, depending on payload (PSD operations vs IR).
  • UAS pilots need to have more than just UAS experience. They need to know what they’re seeing and how to talk on the radio. Having Firing Boss experience is very valuable.
  • Line of sight is still a limitation for the Type 3 UAS, which, due to terrain and vegetation, is about two miles.
  • Type 1 and Type 2 UAS are only available as Call When Needed (CWN) contracted aircraft.

UAS Possibilities for the Future?

  • A UAS—or multiple UAS—being assigned to every incident. Having dedicated federal UAS modules rather than taking from other modules.
  • Integrating UAS with incident Air Operations.
  • Development of UAS leadership positions.
  • Full time “eyes in the sky”—that could replace recon and patrol.
  • Eliminate the use of a light helicopter for PSD operations. Aerial ignition modules.
  • Better battery life for longer flight times.
  • Higher payloads and flight times for operations such as bucket drops.
  • Fireline explosives.
  • Search and Rescue on a fire.
  • More structure and standardization.

For More Information About How UAS can Benefit the Wildland Fire Community:

What Can Drones Do For Me?” Rapid Lessons Sharing.

And:

 

This article was first published on the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center’s blog.

Fully-electric mobile command center developed for unmanned aerial systems

Draxxon UAS Command Trailer
Draxxon UAS Command Trailer. Photo by Draxon.

As unmanned aerial systems (UAS), or drones, become more capable and ubiquitous on wildfires the infrastructure supporting the flight crews will undoubtably become more sophisticated. Typically they work out of a cargo trailer or pickup truck and may have a generator to recharge the batteries on the controllers and aircraft. But it does not always have to be done that way.

Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) module drone Sawtooth Fire
A conventional Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) module on the Sawtooth Fire, June 3, 2020. InciWeb photo.

Two companies, Volta Power Systems and Draxxon have partnered to develop the first fully electric battery-powered towable Command Center designed for UAS. The DX-816 center allows organizations to integrate UAS into other command and control systems. The automotive-grade Volta system allows the entire mobile center to run up to 24 hours on a single system charge without the use of a generator or idling the towing vehicle.

The customizable setup offers both interior and exterior monitoring, as well as a fold-down rooftop UAS flight station. The whole unit is equipped with climate control and LED lighting for reliable visibility, day or night.

Draxxon UAS Command Trailer
Draxxon rooftop UAS flight station mounted on the Command Trailer. Photo by Draxon.
Draxxon UAS Command Trailer
Draxxon Command Trailer. Photo by Draxon.

The trailer’s 24,000 Wh Volta system recharges via a shore power connection, but unlike many technologies, it doesn’t require special charging infrastructure. The power pack can charge safely from a standard electrical wall outlet. Distributed through a 5,000W AC inverter, the system eliminates the need for a generator on-site, with enough stored energy to power the trailer without noise or emissions.

Draxxon UAS Command Trailer
Draxxon Command Trailer. Photo by Draxon.

Parallel Flight Technology nearing completion of their Beta model

Designed to carry 100 pounds for 2 hours

Parallel Flight Technology's Beta Drone
Parallel Flight Technology CEO Joshua Resnick with their Beta drone. PFT image, December, 2020.

Joshua Resnick, CEO of Parallel Flight Technology (PFT), hosted a webinar earlier on December 10 with Douglas Thron, an aerial cinematographer and wildlife rescuer who uses drones to save animals after natural disasters.

The discussion ranged far beyond saving animals and drifted to the technical specifications of the drones that PFT is designing and building. Their latest model is what they call the Beta, and is expected to be able to carry 100 pounds for two hours. The company has been testing prototypes for months, but the Beta may start flight tests in the coming months. (Refer to the video below, at 17:40)

PFT’s drones have four gas powered engines which generate electricity for electric motors that drive the four props. The engines are redundant — if one fails, electricity from the other three can still power all four electric motors.

PFT is talking with wildland fire agencies, including the California Department of Forestry and Fire Suppression, about how their drones could be useful to firefighters.

The next level up drone on their drawing board will have a target payload of 350 to 400 pounds with potential applications being the emergency extraction of a firefighter or dropping up to 50 gallons of water on a wildfire.

At 32:00 in the video below they answer questions that were submitted live during the webinar. Most of them were very good and interesting, except, “Is your drone solar powered?”

The video is cued to start at 17:33.

There are many ways a drone that can haul 100 pounds could be useful for wildland firefighters.

Picture this. It is midnight. A couple of Hotshot crews on extended attack in a remote area would like to conduct a firing operation on a slope leading down to a creek. A hose lay would increase their chances of success, and there’s water in the creek. Helicopters can’t haul cargo at night, so they request a call when needed drone sitting at the helibase to bring in a small pump and two Gasner hose packs with nozzles, gated wyes, and a total of 400 feet of hose. That is enough to get the crews started installing the pump and the hose lay. The drone makes additional sorties as needed, bringing three more Gasner packs and pump fuel on the second load. It might even bring in food and drinking water if the crews have not eaten in the last 12 hours. Or fuel for chain saws and drip torches.

After the hose lay is in and the firing begins, the drone returns outfitted with an infrared camera, then hovers for two hours watching for spot fires and providing live video to the Hotshots, the Division Supervisor, and Operations Section Chief.

If the next level beyond Beta is available, a drone could be on scene with 50 gallons of water to drop on spot fires during the firing operation while also providing live video. If it could refill at the creek, it could deliver hundreds of gallons throughout the night.

DroneSeed receives FAA approval to operate drone swarms beyond visual line of sight

The drones are being used to drop seeds to reforest burned areas

Updated December 7, 2020   |   8:21 p.m. PST

DroneSeed
DroneSeed. CNN image

DroneSeed, a company that uses fleets of drones to reforest areas burned in wildfires, received approval in October from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for its heavy-lift drones to operate Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) and to expand its use of heavy-lift drone swarms to California, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico. They previously had FAA authorization to operate in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho.

The FAA’s action allows DroneSeed to begin reforesting once a fire is contained and airspace is clear. Their aircraft drop seeds that are encapsulated in vessels consisting of four to six seeds, fertilizer, natural pest deterrents, and fibrous material which absorbs water and increases survivability.

The company has designed a system around a swarm of drones that can drop tree seeds in places where they have a decent chance of survival. First they survey the area with a drone using lidar and a multispectral camera to map the terrain and the vegetation. The next step is to use artificial intelligence to sort through the mapping data to find areas where a dropped seed is most likely to germinate, in order to avoid, for example, rock, roads, and unburned locations. After the aircraft are launched, the five aircraft operate autonomously as they fly grid patterns.

A swarm of five drones can reseed 25 to 50 acres each day, said Grant Canary, CEO of DroneSeed. While on a seed-dropping mission each drone can stay in the air for 8 to 18 minutes, then returns to the helibase where it is reloaded with seed vessels and the battery is replaced. Mr. Canary said it takes about 6 minutes to replace the battery and the 57-pound seed vessel container.

DroneSeed makes their aircraft, they are not off-the-shelf consumer level drones. Batteries power the electric motors that drive the propellers. When at a work site, the workers bring five batteries for each aircraft which are recharged with a proprietary charging system run off a generator.

The company has about 40 employees, 10 of whom may be manufacturing seed vessels for ongoing or upcoming reseeding projects.

The company is already reforesting some of the areas burned this year in the one million-acre August Complex of fires in Northern California, and the 173,000-acre Holiday Farm Fire in Oregon.

While most aircraft hired by land management agencies are paid by the flight hour and daily availability rates, DroneSeed charges by the acre.

After sites are selected, seed vessels are manufactured, in many cases containing native Douglas Fir or Ponderosa Pine seeds harvested from the general part of the country where they will be later dispersed.

Currently DroneSeed is the only company in the United States approved to operate with heavy-lift drone swarms, according to the company.

The video below describes the reseeding system beginning at 0:32 and ending at 3:52.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Rick.

Opinion: Congress needs to be careful about banning all parts for drones made outside the U.S.

October 21, 2020   |   1:44 p.m.

drone wildland fire
Drone Amplified photo.

By Carrick Detweiler

The end of summer means the heart of fire season for many Americans. You’ve probably read about a fire somewhere in the United States; so far this year, more than 43,000 fires have burned in states throughout the country, with more than 7 million acres destroyed or damaged nationwide and more than a thousand acres locally in Nebraska. In practical terms, these fires have ravaged property, homes and lives, leaving behind burned out businesses and discarded family memories.
Those on the front lines working to protect lives and livelihoods need every tool available to fight back and keep the fires at bay. For many working to head off the next big fire, it also means managing lands at high risk for the next devastating blaze through prescribed burns. And over the past several years, firefighters have embraced a new tool to help them manage fires: drones.

My company, Drone Amplified, is a Nebraska small business that is helping firefighters across America. We founded our company based on pioneering work conducted at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Our product, Ignis, is a sophisticated drone-based system that works in concert with fire-protection agencies to set fires in areas that have been identified as high risk. These burns effectively eliminate the fuel wildfires rely on to spread out of control. They are critical tools for federal, state and local agencies charged with reducing fire danger.

Right now, drones are helping state and federal officials in California battle fires throughout the state. Officials in neighboring Colorado used our Ignis system to perform backburns to contain the Pine Gulch fire, which is the largest fire in Colorado history. Drones have become part of everyday wildfire management and prevention.

drone wildland fire
Drone Amplified photo.

Drones are key to wildfire management not because they are exciting and futuristic. It’s because they are safer and cheaper than the traditional approach using manned helicopters. Since July of this year alone, at least five people have died in helicopters and airplanes flying aerial firefighting missions. By contrast, an unmanned drone can fly through smoke or at night, eliminating such risks. And a United States Department of Agriculture study found that using a drone with our Ignis system for fire prevention work costs $1,800 a day, compared to $16,000 a day when using a helicopter.

Despite the success we’ve seen with drones in controlling and fighting wildfires, recent policy proposals risk reversing the success we’ve seen in using drones for wildfire management. For example, a key bill under consideration in Congress would ban certain drones based on where they are made. Under these proposed policies, a majority of federal, state and local firefighters couldn’t use many of their drones even if a single part was made in China, grounding much of the deployed drone fleet and leaving a gaping hole in the resources first responders use today.

These proposals stem from fear that drones made in China actually send data to China and, more specifically, the Chinese government. Of course, it’s right to be concerned about data security. We have to know the products we rely on are secure and safe. But recently, we’ve seen studies from independent third-party testers that demonstrate how drones from a leading drone manufacturer, Chinese-based DJI, do not transmit data to China. And that’s important to us. Our business, and the work of so many firefighters, counts on drone technology from around the world. Knowing that our data is protected is absolutely critical. Without that knowledge, we wouldn’t do business with DJI or any other company. After all, we’re a business that works with firefighters and law enforcement every day. We care deeply about protecting our nation’s security and the privacy of user data. If we didn’t trust it, we wouldn’t use it.

One way to better assess the data security risks associated with drones is to consider the creation of government-issued standards to protect data and make sure user data doesn’t fall into the wrong hands — standards that would apply to any drone no matter where it was made. This should be complemented with investments in American companies that are developing the next generation of drone technologies.

drone wildland fire
Drone Amplified photo.

As a Nebraska startup, we’re passionate about our work and our innovation. We want to be recognized for creating something truly meaningful. We want to grow and contribute to the Nebraska economy. But we can’t do that if Washington sets policy based out of fear, with no consideration for the real-world impacts. We need Washington to reconsider these proposals that would ban drones because of their country-of-origin. Instead, policymakers in Washington should set national standards that would apply to everybody, whether the technology is made in China, France or the United States.

Drones may seem like gadgets used by amateur pilots and aviation geeks. And that would probably be true. But for many of us, they are literally saving lives. Washington needs to let us continue what we and many others are doing to protect people and communities from wildfires.

Carrick Detweiler received his Ph.D. from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2010 and joined the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as a faculty member in the Computer Science and Engineering Department in 2010. In 2015, he co-founded Drone Amplified to commercialize technology developed at UNL. He is currently the CEO of Drone Amplified which is redefining fire management practices by enabling safe, efficient and low-cost aerial ignition and fire analytics.

Companies are improving capabilities of drones to transport heavier loads

Bell APT 70
APT 70. Bell image.

Many companies are experimenting with drones that can transport cargo. One day drones, unmanned aerial systems (UAS), will assist wildland firefighters by resupplying them with drinking water, portable pumps, fire hose, chain saws, fuel, food, and firing equipment. Today we will look at the experimental aircraft being built and tested by two organizations.

Bell, a company well known for their helicopters, is part of Textron Inc. that also includes Cessna, Beechcraft, Hawker, and several other companies. In 2018 we wrote about their design for an Autonomous Pod Transport (APT) with a goal of hauling 1,000-pounds of cargo. But recently they flight tested a more modest version, the APT 70, that will be able to carry 70 pounds. The objective was to execute a Beyond Visual Line-of-Sight mission in an urban environment transitioning into and out of Class B airspace representing future commercial flights.

Bell APT 70
APT 70. Bell image.

The APT 70 takes off vertically, then rotates to fly on its wings.

Integrated onto the APT 70 is Xwing’s airborne, multi-sensing detect and avoid system. Xwing’s system is comprised of radars, ADS-B, visual system, and onboard processing to provide aircraft tracks and pilot alerts transmitted to the ground station.

Parallel Flight Technologies has been testing proof of concept and prototype drones since the fall of 2018. The lead electrical engineer that helped design the Tesla all-electric battery-powered semi-trailer truck is one of the three people that have created the company that is developing an unmanned aircraft system that could be used on fires, as well as other functions. Joshua Resnick, now the CEO, said “We are building a new drone technology and it can be used for a lot of different things, but wildfire would really be the use case that was the impetus for me to even start on this project.”

Parallel Flight Technologies Beta
Beta. Image by Parallel Flight Technologies.

Their photos and designs often show their drone carrying chain saws or fire hose.

“We have developed a parallel hybrid drone,” Mr. Resnick said, “where the propellers are powered by a combination of gas and electric. The electric motors provide the responsiveness so the aircraft can maneuver and the gas supplies the duration and the high power to weight ratio.”

The aircraft is powered by four hybrid power modules, each with a gas-electric combination. The 2-cycle gas engines work in combination with the electric motors, which provide very high peak thrust as well as redundancy. Larger aircraft in the pipeline could be powered by other fuels, such as diesel or jet fuel.

Parallel is now building a beta version of the aircraft, appropriately named, “Beta”.

The design projects the payload capability (excluding fuel) for the Beta of 100 pounds for 1 hour, 40 pounds for 4 hours, and 10 pounds for 7 hours.

The company expects the Beta will have applications across industries such as firefighting, industrial logistics, and healthcare.

Parallel is currently testing key components of the aircraft and is planning flight testing for the fourth quarter of this year.  “We have a strong customer pipeline for Beta units to be delivered in 2021,” a spokesperson wrote in a statement.

Parallel Flight Technologies Beta
Beta. Image by Parallel Flight Technologies.