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INSIGHTS

This drone company aims to use drones to fight wildfires

This drone company aims to use drones to fight wildfires
Nitrofirex plans to send drones with payloads of fire extinguishing material directly to wildfire areas that are hazardous for humans to work in.
An estimated 20,000 acres of wildlife and over 70 homes were destroyed in Australia this month as raging bushfire added extra pressure on a region that’s already struggling with COVID-19. In the US, forest fires caused the US $19.884 billion damages in 2020. The numbers don’t end there. Despite several advancements in technology, wildfire continues to remain an unresolved problem in many countries.

Now, a French startup, Nitrofirex, has come up with a concept that seeks to integrate some of the existing technologies to deal with wildfires better. Asmag.com recently spoke to Luis Bordallo, President of Nitrofirex, to better understand the concept.

What’s the solution?

Nitrofirex proposes the use of their patented drone that can carry payloads of fire extinguishing material and operate mainly at night when visibility is a problem. These drones will take off from a human-crewed aircraft close to the fire, carry large quantities of liquid payload in a brief time to the operation area over the flames where the liquid is sprayed. These drones can work at night in environments that are extremely dangerous for crewed aircraft.

Each drone can carry over 2500 liters of liquid fire extinguishers and can quickly return to refill once this is used. This allows the drones to work without much interruption or delay.

“I don’t think we should expose crews’ lives and expensive aircraft in a hazardous night operation to put out fires when, with the available technologies, such operation can be performed with greater safety and lower cost,” Bordallo said.” The big fires, the destructive ones, are those that cannot be controlled during the first day. I definitely think that the priority should be to progress to the “first night” aerial forest fire fighting operational capability in order to have the blaze under control at the first dawn, and this is Nitrofirex ́s main objective.”

Also read: Industrial drones and their uses 

Drones in firefighting and why Nitrofirex is different

This is not the first attempt to use drones in dealing with fire incidents. But for the most part, their use has been limited to getting visuals for assessment, delivering emergency packages to people stranded due to fire, providing thermal images to find people trapped in buildings, conduct investigations, and make fire safety plans.

Nitrofirex’s UAVs are probably one of the first attempts to use drones to fight fires directly. The company is yet to secure funding for developing commercial versions of its solution.

“Our concept represents a new global market niche, and therefore the first company, institution or country to invest in its development will acquire a technological and commercial advantage over any other possible competitor,” Bordallo explained.” I believe that our project is each day more and more necessary. Sooner or later, governments and responsible agencies will have to act to deal with fires better and will require high - tech solutions to alleviate such a catastrophic ecological situation.”

There have even been efforts to contain the fire using fireball-dropping drones. These drones carry a device that can discharge small incendiary balls in less than four minutes. Each of the one-inch spheres has potassium permanganate, and just before they are released, they are given a pin injection of anti-freeze. The two chemicals react and ignite the spheres after they hit the ground. The eggs can set fires ahead of an advancing wildfire in hard-to-reach places, denying it fuel.

Conclusion

Bordallo believes that it is time the world decided to use drone technology to make the life of firemen around the world easier and save more lives. The critical factor is that the technology is already there; it’s just a matter of integrating and tailoring them for this purpose. However, investment interest in this remains low, as Bordallo’s company has found, mainly because it’s still a relatively new idea, and all new ideas require a bit of an appetite for risk from the investors. 


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