Large UAV deployed for ID wildfires

By Luke Geiver | October 15, 2015

Idaho wildfires are putting unmanned aircraft systems in the spotlight again. KAMAN Corp. and Lockheed Martin Corp. have worked with U.S. Department of Interior and Forest Service officials to demonstrate the capabilities of the K-MAX, an unmanned helicopter capable of carrying cargo or dropping water.

Last month, Textron Systems used its fixed-wing UAV to perform situational awareness missions for firefighters on the ground surrounding the wildfires.

At the Lucky Peak Helibase near Boise, Idaho, demonstrations were performed with the K-MAX. Roughly one year ago, the K-MAX’s firefighting capabilities were displayed at the New York Federal Aviation Administration-selected UAS test site.

“We owe it to the firefighters on the ground to continually explore technologies that improve their safety and best support their efforts to protect communities and our nation’s natural and cultural resources during a wildfire incident,” said Mark Bathrick, director of Interior’s Office of Aviation Services. “The integration of technology that could more than double the time we’re able to provide them with logistical and direct air support could be a game-changer in this mission area.”

“Unmanned K-MAX’s insertion into firefighting operations offers fire suppression, aerial support and potential crew extraction to reduce risk to ground firefighters and aircrew,” said Dan Spoor, vice president and general manager of aviation and unmanned systems at Lockheed Martin’s Mission Systems and Training business.

According to DOI, there are limitations to manned support vehicles applicability to firefighting efforts during times of low visibility or at night.