After 30 years of military service it has become increasingly evident that in aviation one of the greatest things we can provide to anyone fighting is known in the military as intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR).
Taking that forward to fighting wildfires and the problems and difficulties are very similar. The fog of war is smoke and the dangers operating on the ground are often similar.
Situational awareness of command elements directly affects efficiency of assets and most importantly safety of those on the ground. Both could be increased significantly by using aviation assets set for the purpose of ISR.
As a military operator of large UAVs I have the luxury of seeing first hand the benefits that this technology can bring. Unfortunately the military is not always willing to release those kind of assets to every wildfire.
As a future start up commercial aviation operator on my retirement. I reviewed the market and saw an opportunity to provide ISR to multiple agencies. I believe that providing fire reconnaissance and by increasing situational awareness I can increase efficiency of those fighting the fire. Most importantly I can increase safety for those on the ground.
All fire chiefs I speak to agree that having a radio repeater and video downlink from an overhead asset would be a game changer. Most ask me about UAVs thinking they are some kind of panacea. However the current civilian UAV technology is just not able provide the kind of performance required at the affordable rates desired. In addition going through the current process to actually use UAVs with the FAA is slow and cumbersome. Let alone the legal ramifications in some states which have already legislated against drones.
Currently no one can produce a civilian UAV that can stay aloft for hours not minutes, that is commercially viable. An ISR platform must be able to stay above and clear of fire fighting aircraft and feed live video and information to command. Viewing the the affects of the suppressant and fire fighting efforts across the fire will increase efficiency, Situational Awerness and safety for those involved.
As a group of retiring military aviators we have formed Sentinel Air LLC and believe we have found a compromise between the UAV and Manned Platform that can provide excellent ISR. By cost sharing among a number of agencies and customers not just wildfires we can keep down to very affordable rates.
If you feel that our platform could bring the kind of abilities you need to fighting wildfires please vote this up.