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.