Israel's Elbit Systems has successfully tested a new technology that facilitates highly precise aerial firefighting regardless of the time of day.
The “Hydrop” system launches tons of liquid pellets rather than liquid, taking into account the altitude, wind conditions, GPS location, aircraft velocity, and the shape and weight of the pellets, Elbit said January 21 in a press release. Hydrop uses fighter aircraft avionics to direct the aircraft to the drop point, as well as to calculate the optimal trajectory for the launch, according to the company.
In the recent test, carried out during an exercise by the Israel Fire and Rescue Authority, two Air Tractor aircraft each dropped 1.6 tons of the pellets on a burning field from an altitude of as high as 500 feet, over four times higher than average sorties. Both of the aircraft made direct hits, Elbit said.
The use of liquid for aerial firefighting, and the resulting need to ensure that the maximum amount of liquid hits the target area, has limited the effective sortie altitude to 100-120 feet. Furthermore, civil aviation regulations and safety concerns have limited such aerial firefighting to daytime hours.
The Hydrop system’s pellets, which contain fire retardant, foam or water, can be launched at an altitude of 500-2000 feet, Elbit said, adding that the pellets leave no harmful residue and pose no danger to those on the ground.