The company Drone Amplified has released its strategy for combatting wildfires. The Strategy is not unique, but its methodology definitely offers a new approach.
The common strategy involves containing fires by setting other fires, called backburns, to consume the deadwood and other materials that help fuel larger fires. This tactic is nothing new, however, the use of unmanned drones to drop what the company is calling "Dragon Eggs" could prove to be safer and more effective.
The Dragon Eggs contain potassium permanganate, which is simultaneously extremely flammable when exposed to an ignition source but also proven safe to handle and transport by a drone. These IGNIS-equipped drones light backfires by dropping spheres the size of ping pong balls, called Dragon Egg spheres, wherever firefighters want the new fires to start.
The Dragon Eggs are injected with a chemical called glycol right before they're released from the drone, which causes a chemical reaction that ignites 30 seconds after the Dragon Egg is released. That ensures that the Dragon Eggs catch fire after they've reached the ground. The IGNIS system typically carries around 400 Dragon Egg spheres, and it can drop them at a rate of up to 120 spheres per minute.
That lets one IGNIS-equipped drone ignite several hundred hectares of land every hour, which helps firefighters start a backfire quickly and safely. These fire-starting drones can also set controlled burns, which firefighters and foresters use to safely remove accumulated leaves, limbs, grass, and debris that can fuel dangerous wildfires. And, drones can even help restore burned areas by fitting drones with seed distribution systems.
Onboard sensing and embedded AI helps ensure accurate deployment of these firebombs without putting firefighters in even more danger.
IGNIS has been used extensively on many of the wildfires in California, Colorado, and Oregon this year. And, according to a report from Digital Trends, the Department of Agriculture estimates that the system is more cost-effective than using a manned helicopter to perform the same job – saving upwards of $14,000 per day!