Awards Registry

Reducing Wildfire Risk with Large Scale Prescribed Fire Drones
Profile last edited on: 6/3/2022

Total Award Amount
Award Phase
Principal Investigator
Joshua Resnick
Activity Indicator

Company Information

Parallel Flight Technologies Inc

450 McQuaide Drive
Watsonville, CA 95076
   (831) 252-4175
Multiple Locations:   
Congressional District:   20
County:   Santa Cruz

Phase I

Phase I year
Phase I Amount
Reducing Wildfire Risk with Large Scale Prescribed Fire Drones This proposal is for research related to the development of a large unmanned incendiary load system for igniting prescribed burns. This proposal responds to the USDA NIFA SBIR priority 6"Developing Technology that Facilitates the Management of Wildfires on Forest Lands." Aerial ignition systems for prescribed burns are a critical tool for managing fuel loads as well as for fighting wildfires. Prescribed burns are a vital tool for both land management and active firefighting. The US spends $500M on prescribed burns each year. Aerial ignition for prescribed burns performed with helicopters is an expensive operation costing between $1K and $2K per hour. Moreover helicopter aerial ignition is a very dangerous operation underscored by the recent fatality of a firefighter who died in a helicopter crash in Texas while performing an aerial ignition operation. This proposal aims to provide a safer alternative with significant cost savings for stakeholders. The objective of this Phase 1 proposal is to study the feasibility of a large-scale prescribed fire drone based on a new heavy-lift parallel hybrid UAS being developed by Parallel Flight Technologies and the Plastic Sphere Dispenser (PSD) technology developed by Drone Amplified. Fundamental research into the applicability of the parallel hybrid system in the prescribed fire mission is required before developing a full solution. Also studying the unique vibration characteristics of the parallel hybrid airframe and its interaction with a future large PSD system from Drone Amplified is required before developing and integrating the systems. The effort will focus on characterizing airframe/payload vibration isolation flight dynamics testing with representative payloads in prescribed burn environments sensor and gimbal vibration mitigation PSD drop dynamics testing from the Parallel UAS and development of terrain follow capability for the Parallel UAS. The anticipated result is validation that a large unmanned system for prescribed burns can be developed based on the parallel hybrid UAS technology and the PSD technology developed by Drone Amplified. A Phase II grant would then provide the resources needed to begin building a full solution for market. The commercial applications for the technology are safer and lower cost prescribed burns for land management as well as controlled ignition as a tool for active wildfire suppression.

Phase II

Phase II year
2021 (last award dollars: 2021)
Phase II Amount
Existing aerial controlled ignition solutions are expensive and dangerous or limited in range and inefficient. Parallel Flight Technologies (PFT) and Drone Amplified (DA) propose to develop an aerial controlled ignition solution to significantly expand Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) prescribed burn capabilities to more than 1000 acres per flight/charge. PFT will build a hybrid electric UAS with a 10x advantage over current all-electric s UAS that is capable of carrying DA's scaled-up Plastic Sphere Dispenser (PSD) system. The combined team will integrate the large PSD with the enhanced UAS for testing in the field. The proposed solution will be safer and offer significant cost savings for the US government and private sector. Targeted project objectives include demonstrating:1) ability to carry and deploy at least 2000ignition spheres per flight/charge; 2) ability to drop spheres with equal or better effectiveness than current solutions; 3) ability to obtain real-time thermal and visual camera data; 4) ability to fly over one hour with large PSD; 5) ability to refuel the UAS in the field in five minutes or less without the need for large generators to charge large batteries. This application addresses Topic Area 8.1 - Forests and Related Resources supports USDA FY2018-2022 Strategic Plan Objective 6.3 "Mitigate Wildfire Risk" under Strategic Goal 6 "Ensure Productive and Sustainable Use of our National Forest System Lands" by enhancing Forest Service prescribed burn capabilities while reducing the cost of such activities and addresses USDA NIFA priority areas of energy efficiency and renewable energy.