One critical application for our proprietary, Parallel Hybrid technology is for use in prescribed, or controlled, burns. A prescribed burn is a fire set on purpose by firefighters to remove fuels from wildlands in a controlled way, to prevent future catastrophic fires. They are also used during an active wildfire to create a fire break, an area with nothing left to burn, in front of an oncoming fire.
For many prescribed burns, the tool of choice is a helicopter, which will drop small plastic spheres, loaded with a chemical, that ignite after they hit the ground. These are extremely dangerous missions because it requires the helicopters to fly low and slow, in what is called “the deadman’s curve”. Any mechanical failure on the helicopter can likely lead to a crash because there is no altitude in which to recover. Tragically, a firefighter from the U.S. Forest Service died in just such a crash earlier this year. This however, is not an isolated incident, controlled burn operations have a history of fatalities due to their highly dangerous nature.
Controlled burn crash on March 27, 2019 on the Sam Houston National Forest, Texas
In an effort to make these missions safer and more effective, many agencies are turning to unmanned systems, or drones, for controlled burns. Leading the charge in developing this new technology is a company called Drone Amplified. They manufacture a product called IGNIS which allows drones to ignite prescribed burns. Their products are already in use by the Dept. of the Interior, U.S. Forest Service, and other agencies.
Firefighters fly a drone carrying the IGNIS payload for a controlled burn
Another advantage to using drones for prescribed burns is the ability to operate at night. Helicopter pilots typically avoid fire missions at night because of the increased danger. However, wildfires are more vulnerable at night, so the ability to safely ignite back burn fires using a drone with an infrared camera is a game-changer.
Dept. of the Interior uses the IGNIS system to ignite a backburn fire at night
However, like many heavy payload applications utilizing drones, they are limited by the short flight time and small payloads of existing drone technologies. In order to provide a more complete solution for controlled burns, Drone Amplified is partnering with Parallel Flight to develop a larger IGNIS system that can carry thousands of ignition spheres - the current version only carries a few hundred.
Parallel Flight will provide the drone platform, Drone Amplified will provide the payload, and together we will provide a complete solution to this urgent problem. Drone Amplified has signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) with us at Parallel Flight expressing their desire to use our platform for a larger IGNIS solution, and our two companies have applied together for an SBIR grant from the USDA to bring additional funding to the development.
The U.S. spends $500M per year on prescribed burns and we are excited to be partnering with an industry leader as we enter this market.
For more information on the use of drones for controlled ignition, you can check out this link here. For more info on Drone Amplified and the IGNIS payload, click here.
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Joshua Resnick, CEO