The Dornier DO-228 is a powerful commuter aircraft well known for it’s STOL capabilities and it’s versatility. The only role, which has not been performed yet is the role as a firefighter. AERIAL-FIREFIGHTING.com has now started the development of the first tank system for this aircraft.
The tank system will not be permanently installed, but offered as a temporary retrofit system for DO-228 operators. The fitting should be possible in one or two days after removal of the seat rows. The tank is planned for a drop mass of approximately 1.5 tonnes of extinguishing agent. Filling is to be carried out at an airfield by fire pumps. The new tank is intended to enable authorities to also use the aircraft of local air services to respond to fire disasters, as there is currently a worldwide shortage of suitable aircraft. The DO-228 is an uncomplicated and robust aircraft that is used intensively in all climatic zones worldwide. It can operate from unpaved short runways.
Even if a bush fire has been successfully extinguished or simply left a ruined landscape behind by its progress, the danger of it flaring up again has not yet been averted. In the remnants of trees, accumulations of undergrowth or simply in the ground, fires often leave glowing nests, which can last for a long time in regions affected by droughts. They often lead to renewed inflammation and are therefore a constant danger.
By constant monitoring of the burned areas, especially from the air, attempts are made to detect the glowing nests and to extinguish them as quickly as possible in the event of new fires. Mostly small airplanes and helicopters are used for monitoring. But how are the very large fire zones in Australia, the United States and Canada to be effectively monitored?
Infrared images taken by earth observation satellites are one of the possibilities, but they have their limitations due to insufficient resolution. Larger fires can be detected, but by then it is already too late for quick action. So-called UAVs – unmanned aircraft-like drones – are increasingly being brought into play. Unfortunately, the number available for civil defense agencies is small and the current market prices for UAVs are often very high, but budgets are limited. Certainly, the UAVs are not yet considered capable of replacing the observation skills of an experienced fire-fighting pilot.
However, UAVs are capable of very long flight times and do not require daylight or good visibility conditions. With sensors such as high-resolution cameras, infrared sensors and other reconnaissance equipment whose data is transmitted to the ground station in real time, a small swarm of UAVs can monitor a large area. Flight times of more than 20 hours are no longer a problem. The operating costs are minimal compared to an airplane and especially a helicopter. And above all, crews are not sent on potentially dangerous missions.
However, it is necessary to offer UAVs especially suited for disaster control in large numbers at acceptable prices. After all, these are urgently needed, and only individual experimental missions are of no help to anyone. The technology is proven, and it is time to deploy large numbers for the benefit of fire protection.
We have started in the last week the basic design of a UAV that will be specialized on patrol in areas, which are endangered by wildfires. The UAV will have a endurance of 20 – 24 hours and will be equipped with HD cameras, infrared and smoke sensors.
An affordable production price is one of the project target, so the layout and the construction methods will be as simple as possible. The basic design will be finished in the end of september. The next step will be the construction of a mockup and a test bed.
Although rainfall in Eastern Australia is currently helping to control the bushfires, there is still a risk of renewed outbreaks. To prevent similar catastrophic situations in the future not only in Australia but also worldwide, the number fleet of firefighting aircraft must be increased in the next years. The time of the oldtimer water bombers – remains aof the WW II – is over. The future fire bomber must be safe and reliable. The urban sprawl of the megacities makes a better protection agains wildfires essential. Water bombing is not any longer a business taken out in some remote forest areas. The fires are coming nearer to the humans.
We are now searching for supoorters, investors and know-how to prepare the developement and the conversion of modern aircraft into water bombers. Any help is welcome.
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