Image

Fighting wildfires with drones

4 November 2020

As wildfires continue to ravage vast swaths of land across the western United States unmanned aerial vehicle operators are stepping up to provide critical services, acting as eyes in the skies in support of firefighting teams on the ground.

Flying two hybrid quadrotor (HQ) aircraft manufactured by L3Harris Technologies, Belgrade, Montana-based Bridger Aerospace, has flown some 250 hours in about a dozen firefighting missions across several western states, Weston Irr, Bridger’s director of unmanned aircraft systems, said in an interview.

The right tools for fighting wildfires with drones

The fixed-wing 90-pound drones’ design and technological features equip them to be deployed to battle wildfires in remote areas. The gasoline-powered aircraft are capable of taking off vertically, like rotary-powered drones. They can remain aloft for 12 hours, although on a typical mission, they are deployed for a six- to eight-hour flight. They’re outfitted with dual-camera systems, for both day and night operations.

With a wing span of 14 feet, the HQ-90 aircraft can be disassembled for easy transport to a fire scene in the bed of a pickup truck and because of their vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) capability, they don’t need a runway and can take off from virtually any open area within close proximity of the fire.

“The use of runway or landing strip is not a typical luxury that everyone gets,” in wildfire situations, Irr said. “You can launch using a small meadow or a little clearing in the trees.” Bridger has been approved under a special government interest waiver (SGI) to fly its aircraft beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS) in wildfire situations, which has given the company the ability to deal with some of the massive wildfires sweeping the West.

The HQ-90 drones’ camera systems allow the aircraft to operate in low-visibility situations, such as in a smoke-filled sky or at night, when manned aircraft are unable to fly. “In smoky environments the infrared capability on our system allows us to see right through that smoke,” Irr said. “We have a really good advantage in those situations because we can see and the system is fully capable of operating.”

Bridger, which began as an aerial wildfire management operator using manned aircraft in 2015, began adding drones to its firefighting arsenal in the 2018 fire season. It utilized a Type 2 vehicle – a drone capable of flying for more than two but less than six hours — produced by Silent Falcon UAS Technologies to create maps that allowed firefighters to gauge the extent of a wildfire’s spread.

Last year, the company moved up the HQ-90 UAV, a Type 1 aircraft, a category which includes any aerial vehicle capable of flying for more than six hours. The longer flight time allowed Bridger to continue to perform its mapping function, while adding aerial surveillance and reconnaissance to its firefighting capabilities.

“Once we complete our mapping mission, we’ll go into a surveillance support role where we’ll fly over certain sections of the fire for a longer period of time to give them extra eyes, or infrared imagery where they need it the most,” Irr said.

More >>

Source: dronelife.com

Read More
Image

New tool to manage forestry slash

Better management of forest felling waste has gained new impetus in Cyclone Gabrielle’s wake, with the sector firmly in the spotlight for the impact such waste has had on communities, ecosystems, and farmland downstream from harvest areas. Rotorua-based forest management ...
Read more
Image

New multi-species carbon calculator available

A new multi-species carbon calculator developed by Mark Kimberley and Michael Watt to support grower decision-making is freely available on the Forest Growers Research website ( Multi-Species Carbon Calculator (fgr.nz)). The calculator predicts growth metrics for eleven species that include ...
Read more
Image

JOUAV unveils advanced airborne Lidar sensor

JOUAV has released the JoLiDAR-1000 Lidar sensor designed specifically for uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs or ‘drones’) as the latest addition to its array of high-performance Lidar sensors for use in UAV applications such as GIS, surveying and precision powerline inspections. ...
Read more
Image

Wingtra debuts pioneering Lidar drone solution

Wingtra has unveiled its innovative Lidar-drone solution. The new Lidar payload is designed to seamlessly integrate the efficiency, ease of operation, and high accuracy of the WingtraOne GEN II drones with an advanced Wingtra-engineered Lidar sensor, offering notable advancements in ...
Read more
Image

Trimble and DroneDeploy improved UAV mapping

Trimble has unveiled the integration of the Trimble Applanix POSPac Cloud post-processed kinematic (PPK) GNSS positioning service, featuring CenterPoint RTX, with the UAV-based mapping and data collection capabilities of DroneDeploy’s reality capture platform. With the Trimble cloud positioning service, DroneDeploy ...
Read more
Image

Blue gum expansion & mechanised planting planned

Australia’s dwindling timber reserves could be exhausted in less than a decade, but industry experts are hoping a new native nursery in Western Australia could help ease the pressure. In the coastal city of Albany, 450 kilometres south of Perth, ...
Read more