Autonomous Black Hawk Helicopter Tested as Wildfire Fighter

It handled early detection, dispatch, route planning, preflight, takeoff, flight, Bambi bucket operations, targeting, suppression, and landing.

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Rain/Sikorsky

Rain, a company specializing in aerial wildfire containment technology, and Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company, completed flight tests in late 2023 demonstrating how an autonomous helicopter carrying water can be quickly launched to suppress a wildland fire in its very early stage.

Rain and Sikorsky collaborated to perform the integrated flight demonstrations at Sikorsky headquarters in Stratford, Connecticut. The Optionally Piloted Black Hawk helicopter flew in autonomous mode with Sikorsky safety pilots on board. Together, we have shown a series of capabilities that can enable accelerated aerial response to wildfires:

  • Integrating wildfire early detection cameras (powered by Alchera X’s FireScout AI) with automated aircraft dispatch and routing powered by Rain.
  • An optionally piloted BLACK HAWK helicopter with Sikorsky’s MATRIX flight autonomy system was integrated with Rain’s wildfire mission autonomy system.
  • Rain’s wildfire mission autonomy system processed imagery from an on-board high-resolution thermal camera to localize, target and suppress the fire, directing both the aircraft’s flight path and water release timing.

The fully integrated solution performed end-to-end autonomous wildfire response, including early detection, dispatch, route planning, preflight, takeoff, flight, Bambi bucket operations, targeting, suppression, and landing.

Rain will continue to expand its engagement with fire agencies to integrate autonomous systems into operations and enhance safety for responders and the community, and looks forward to advancing capabilities for autonomous firefighting in collaboration with Sikorsky.

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