Rain remotely commands UH-60 for Firefighting Missions

Rain remotely commands UH-60 for Firefighting Missions

11-Apr-2023 Source: Rain Industries

Rain Industries, a leader in automated rapid initial wildfire suppression, has added the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk to its list of supported aircraft, demonstrating the ability to remotely command the aircraft via satellite link from a central command center. This milestone event showcases early steps towards a network of automated aircraft capable of rapidly responding to ignitions to prevent catastrophic wildfires.

As part of this capability demonstration, Rain sent a flight plan from their command center in California to the Rain Aircraft Integration Kit installed on a Black Hawk helicopter in Tennessee. Once the on-board safety pilots activated the flight plan, they removed their hands from the controls while the aircraft flew itself to the hypothetical fire destination and back. In a video of the accomplishment (https://youtu.be/XDsM1lkkmkU), the aircraft can be seen executing the mission while the ground crew in California remotely monitors its progress.

Rain’s Chief Engineer, Ephraim Nowak, states, “this is a critical first proof-of-concept to illustrate how our software will allow uncrewed aircraft to support firefighting missions.” The Black Hawk, and its firefighting variant the Firehawk®, are familiar aircraft in the fire service, trusted by agencies such as CAL FIRE, the US Forest Service, and many others around the world. In addition to this recent integration with the Black Hawk, Rain has previously demonstrated an uncrewed Mosquito helicopter containing a test ignition.

The nascent stages of a wildfire are a critical opportunity for quick, efficient fire suppression. The UN predicts extreme fire will increase by about 50% by the end of the century, with extreme fire events already playing out in the Western US, northern Siberia, central India, and eastern Australia. In California alone there are already over one thousand fire watch cameras continuously monitoring over 90% of the state’s extreme and high fire threat areas. Rain integrates with these camera feeds and other early detection sensors to dispatch nearby autonomous helicopters within seconds, so that fires can be contained within minutes.

Rain’s UH-60 Black Hawk demonstration, and the addition of the aircraft type to its list of supported aircraft, comes ahead of a number of scheduled pilot projects with customer fire agencies in California during 2023. These demonstrations serve to further establish the company as the market leader in rapid automated initial wildfire suppression.

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