Spain-based start-up DRONE HOPPER has designed a heavy-duty firefighting drone that the company says offers “safety, flexibility and efficiency over traditional fire suppression technology.”
Fueled by a gasoline engine, the drone has a diameter of 63 in. and is 20 in. high. The system incorporates thermographic cameras and navigation systems that give firefighters real-time information on terrain, atmospheric conditions and other data.
The company says the volume of water that the DRONE HOPPER can carry (79 gallons) is about one-tenth of that which a hydroplane can carry, but the price of the drone is one-tenth, as well – allowing rescue services to acquire a sufficient number of drones to match the productivity of a plane while ensuring a greater degree of safety and pinpoint accuracy.
The water on board the drone is nebulized directly above the seat of fire, using high-speed air generated by the drone propellers to perform nebulization. Each drone includes a magnetic system to control the nebulization in order to use the appropriate amount of water mist for each specific type of fire.
The company notes that the DRONE HOPPER can be adapted to different aircraft models in order to be released at a certain altitude above the fire. The drones can also be transported by land and take off from a location close to the fire to comply with existing regulations.
A prototype will be available for demonstration to U.S. rescue services starting in July, and the DRONE HOPPER is expected to be on the market in the fall of 2018.