Emergency Response / Disaster relief
Emergency response is an important role for hybrid air vehicle because often the problem is
to move staff and supplies the last 50 or 100 miles. There are many types of emergency
response, but Canada is faced every year with the need to respond to one particular kind:
forest fires. Rather than describe all forms of emergency response, forest fires are used as a
template to describe this market.
In recent history, fires are becoming more
frequent and more severe. This is due to
climate change and the impact that is having
on the dryness of the forest. When fires do
occur in areas that are more populated, they
have a greater impact. This issue has been
further compounded by the Smokey the Bea
phenomenon. This very successful campaign
to report fires has lead to a build up of fuel on
the forest floor because of the fire
suppression policy of extinguishing all fires.
However, fires are part of the natural
ecosystem and low intensity fires are actually
helpful in reducing the risks of fires, especially
in proximity of communities and industrial
There are four main activity areas associated
with fire management.
Fire Intelligence and communications
Current practice is to detect fires using fixed position lookout towers, and aircraft patrols,
(smaller aircraft flying over areas where wild land fires are likely due to lightning and or man
causes). Current practice requires tower infrastructure, seasonal staff and costly aircraft. This
practice has severe limitations such as;
blind areas (valleys etc) not visible from a fixed tower
period of observation, aircraft do not monitor forested areas over a period of time as
they see the area and continue on the flight
The limitations in the ability to detect fires using these methods results in fewer fires
being detected. It is estimated that only15-25% of all fires are detected using
conventional means. Wild land fires are often detected by people who report the fire
using the Fire Reporting 1-800 Phone numbers each agency typically establishes. This
approach is often hit or miss. Failure to detect fires in a timely manner often results in
fires becoming larger. Consequently, they consume more forested area, threaten more
property and infrastructure and as a result, increase the risk to human life, and increase
the cost to extinguish.
Initial attack involves the movement of personnel, equipment and fire suppressant/retardant
to a detected wild land fire site. This must be done as quickly after detection as possible to
minimize the fire size. The current practice involves determining what resources, in terms of
personnel and equipment, need to be dispatched to the fire location. These decisions are based
upon an analysis of potential fire behavior. Fires that will spread quickly due to forest fuel
dryness, terrain, wind and temperatures require a quicker response than those, which are
burning in wet or cooler conditions. Resources are transported by road where possible, but
more often by helicopters appropriate to the load size being moved. Often, fire
suppressant/retardant is delivered to strategic locations on the fire line by fixed wing aircraft,
helicopters and/or combinations of these platforms.
Having the right resources in the right location as quickly as possible reduces the potential of
rapid fire spread thus enabling the crews to have maximum effect when extinguishing the fire.
Typically 95% of wild land fires are contained in the first burning period using the above
practices. Fires that are not contained in the first period may become very costly to manage in
terms of their impact life, property, values and dollars. It is not uncommon to have fires cost
several hundreds of thousands of dollars or more to extinguish.
Mop-up activities are directed at fire cooling and extinguishment by delivering large volumes
of water to support the ground crew actions. As part of this activity, fire crews usually require
large volumes of water to assist in the complete extinguishment of the fire. On occasion water
is available on site, from lakes and or streams to perform this task but frequently it is not.
Large fixed wing air tankers and helicopters are then employed to support mop up efforts.
While there may be little choice, helicopters and fixed wing air tankers have very high costs per
unit of load and as a function of load size limitation may require many trips to complete the
work. Some of the issues that effect mop-up operations using air drops include:
Currently the delivery of water is by skimmer aircraft or helicopter and may well cost
several dollars per litre delivered.
Limitations on the availability of air tanker aircraft and or larger helicopters often
precludes the use of these tools when the aircraft are committed to other fires and or
The result is often an increase in the size and damage done by the wildfire and the
increased threat to life and property.
Fire Intelligence and Communications
Currently fire mapping is provided by fixed wing aircraft carrying cameras with regular and
infra red capabilities. These images are taken over the fire site and transported back to a base
where they are processed and transformed into maps for the ground fire managers. This
process does not afford fire managers overseeing large areas fire behavior and activity
intelligence. Information is not real time and delays in delivery of good fire maps are the norm,
it is also very costly.
High level airships have the potential to provide fire intelligence on demand, real time
mapping and photos on an ongoing basis.
Fire line communications are comprised of a variety of systems, fm radios which may require
installation of local repeaters to be effective, cellular phones, and radio and satellite
telephones. All of these systems are expensive to maintain and operate.
Summary of Potential Benefits of Hybrid For Fire Suppression
Hybrids air vehicle could fundamentally change the way large project fires are fought and
managed. Canada spends over $1 billion annually fighting an average of 7,600 fires. Fires
burn 2.8 million hectares of forestland, wildlife habitat and human communities. Hybrid air
vehicle have the potential to reduce the costs of fire servicing and control as they:
Hybrid air vehicle have the ability to carry large payloads
ïƒ˜ large volumes of suppressant and or retardant
ïƒ˜ large numbers of men and equipment
Hybrid air vehicle can hover thus permitting:
ïƒ˜ Delivery of fire suppressant from precise locations, and deliver same to
ïƒ˜ Deliver heavy equipment and ground support resources to precise locations
without the benefit of roads or helipads.
Hybrid air vehicle can operate independent of ground base infrastructure and have
long operating endurance.
Hybrid air vehicle have relatively low capital and operating costs. The buoyancy
created by the lifting gas mean that the aircraft does not have to incur the fuel costs of
remaining airborne either by maintaining airspeed in the case of fixed wing, or rotor
speed in the case of helicopters. This resulting in a significant saving in both capital and
operating costs and makes hybrid air vehicle very efficient to operate.
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Millennium Airship Inc/SkyFreighter Canada Ltd