New drone technology could change the game for firefighters battling wildfires

firefighting drones
Posted at 4:51 PM, Mar 04, 2022

LA SELVA BEACH, California — Technology is mind-blowing sometimes, like drones that can now fly without a human at the controls. At Parallel Flight Technologies, we are seeing that first hand as they work to break the mold of what can be done to help firefighters during a wildfire.

CEO Joshua Resnick started this company after fires in the mountains of Santa Cruz, California came dangerously close to his home.

“The CZU complex fire was terrible and I think over 1000 homes were lost in our community," Resnick said. “Between that fire and the devastating fires in Santa Rosa it was a wakeup call. What technologies can be brought to bear on the wildfire problem?”

As an engineer working at Tesla, he felt a calling to leave his job and answer that very question. Experts within the industry told him what already exists out there, but pointed out what doesn’t; technology that can carry heavy payloads significant distances, to bring tools and supplies to firefighters.

“So we designed a hybrid solution, so a gas-electric solution that can fly for hours with a full payload, almost 2 hours of flight time," Resnick said. “It’s already been done in the automotive world but it’s never been done for rotorcraft, so we were the first ones to do it, we developed it, we’ve been working on it since really late 2018 and were getting very close to having a product to put on the market.”

This model can carry up to one hundred pounds of equipment. It allows things like hoses, fuel, drinking water, tools, and survival gear to be delivered directly to those on the front lines.

Retired Battalion Chief with CalFire, Scott Watson, says this will be a game-changer.

"I started out as a ground-pounder. I can remember being on that mountain wishing I had an aircraft that could come and deliver whatever I needed," Watson said. "We realize that we need to be flying at night we also need to have the ability to fly under smokey conditions where only visual flight rules exist. ”

Not only can these drones free up helicopters from carrying pallets of material, but they can fly 24/7, into very difficult locations, at night, or when smoke is thick.

"We never have enough areal resources ever and now we're fighting mega-fires and these mega-fires require a lot of resources. Drones will bridge that gap," Watson said.

Humans need breaks. Autonomous technology doesn’t.

“Now it’s time for another more rapid advance and to really leverage autonomous technology to get people out of harm's way and to go do the dull, dirty, dangerous work that needs to get done without putting people's lives on the line," Resnick said.

If you'd like to learn more about this company and how you can get involved, you can click here.