U.S. Forest Service and Drone Amplified partner to drive search for domestic firefighting drones
LINCOLN, Neb. — Drone Amplified, the company that’s pioneered wildfire fighting using drones, has contracted with the U.S. Forest Service to source and vet U.S.-made drones to fight wildfires with Drone Amplified’s aerial ignition system. The $750,000 contract is designed to increase and scale the utilization of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) for aerial ignitions in fire management and develop the next generation of aerial ignition capabilities.
The move follows the Department of the Interior’s grounding of their fleet of drones that contained Chinese made parts, which made it more difficult to fight wildfires. The U.S. Forest Service has been filling this gap, and now with this investment, the U.S. Forest Service and Drone Amplified are leading the charge to drive domestic drone innovation.
The deal follows the successful development and deployment of Drone Amplified’s aerial ignition system called IGNIS. IGNIS is the only UAS-based aerial ignitions payload available to the U.S. market that is approved for use on Federal prescribed fires and wildfires.
IGNIS’s patented technology carries a payload of standard ping-pong ball sized chemical spheres. It can be integrated with infrared and other types of cameras. The spheres are pre-loaded with potassium permanganate and later injected with antifreeze prior to being released. The spheres ignite after hitting the ground, setting off back burns to create defensive lines for firefighters in rugged and sometimes unreachable terrain.
“Our unique system has been conceived, developed and manufactured here in the U.S.,” said Drone Amplified Co-Founder Carrick Detweiler.
“IGNIS has been extensively field tested on fires during the 2018 and 2019 fire seasons. It was then approved for use for fuels and wildfire management by the National Interagency Aviation Committee in 2019 and has been actively used by federal, state, and private contractors on numerous fires and prescribed burns ever since,” he said.
While the IGNIS system is 100% made in America, the challenge for furthering the use of UAS based aerial ignitions is finding a domestic drone to carry the system so federal agencies can scale their programs effectively, and also fits within Federal guidelines that restrict the use of Chinese-made parts.
Drone Amplified will be initially looking for a replacement for the grounded Chinese manufactured DJI Matrice 600 pro, which was the work horse of the U.S. Forest Service and other land management agencies UAS fleets.
The company will also be tasked with the full integration of the IGNIS system into the selected UAS ensuring the continued successful application of UAS-based aerial ignition for fire management.
IGNIS is easily controlled and automated with a custom app that was designed for use by firefighters. The app tightly integrates operation of the drone and IGNIS to allow the firefighters to release the spheres with a high degree of accuracy in terrain that’s often difficult to detect with helicopters or airplanes. The drone’s dynamic ability to fly in densely smoky, high-altitude areas means there is less risk to firefighters on the ground and to pilots in the air as it reduces the requirement for high-risk, low-flying manned aircraft.
2020 has shown the success of the IGNIS system for managing fires with UAS aerial ignition and proven the case for UAS use on numerous wildfire incidents and fuels management projects (prescribed fire). UAS equipment is embedded with trained operators on Interagency Hotshot Crews, Wildland Fire Modules, or stand-alone UAS Modules. Examples include the Lakeview, Truckee and Arrowhead Hotshot Crews and the Unaweep and Columbine Wildland Fire Modules. BLM, NPS, USFS, FWS, and OAS personnel work together as stand-alone UAS Modules.
While aerial ignition is a major use case for UAS on wildfire incidents and prescribed fire projects, Drone Amplified, in conjunction with the Forest Service, will be driving innovation in the domestic UAS market, while vetting current comparable UAS systems to ensure that the next system will match or exceed the operational needs of the USFS. The U.S. Forest Service on average treats 1.4 million acres annually with prescribed fire and has a goal to increase to 2 million acres within the next 3 years. Safety is paramount for these operations and the agency needs reliable and scalable technological solutions to meet this increasing workload.
They will also be seeking systems with a range of possibilities, some of which extend outside of fire management and into the broader range of forestry work. A key part of the analysis from a national security standpoint will include the country of origin of key components such as the radio link, flight controller, etc.
Drone Amplified’s IGNIS platform – now on its second version, IGNIS 2 - has been used in states ranging from Florida to Alaska.
About Drone Amplified
Drone Amplified, the inventor of IGNIS, spent years researching this technology and was the first to use it to ignite prescribed fires with a drone on private and federal lands. The company has an exclusive license agreement with NUTech Ventures and grants which facilitated additional development, testing, and refinement of the concept into the product available on the market today. For more information, visit www.droneamplified.com.