Elbit Systems solution to allow planes to fight fires 24/7

Elbit Systems HyDrop solution enables, for the first time, continuous operations “to fight fires 24/7 and especially during the night.”

The Hydrop solution being dropped from on board a Croman aerial fire suppression helicopter. (photo credit: ELBIT SYSTEMS)
The Hydrop solution being dropped from on board a Croman aerial fire suppression helicopter.
(photo credit: ELBIT SYSTEMS)
Since the 1950s, aerial firefighting has been conducted using liquid cascade drop methods, which require firefighting sorties at low altitudes.
Although effective, these methods are restricted to daytime-only flights because of their altitude.
Haifa-based defense firm Elbit Systems is changing the way fires are being fought, after completing its first successful test of the HyDrop system, which allows planes to fight fires from a higher altitude and with higher precision.
Elbit said the test took place during a field demonstration, as part of an exercise led by the Fire and Rescue Service.
During the exercise, two Air Tractor aircraft from were directed to extinguish a burning field from as high as 150 m., which is more than four times higher than the average altitude of a standard aerial firefighting sortie, it explained.
“Using the HyDrop system, each aircraft launched 1.6 tons of 140-gram liquid pellets in a computed ballistic trajectory, achieving a precise hit with saturation of one to two liters per square meter.”
Yair Ganor, senior director of Aerial Firefighting Solutions at Elbit Systems Aerospace division, told The Jerusalem Post that for the current aerial firefighting methods, “such low-altitude flights are restricted to daytime only,” because of safety concerns and civil aviation regulations.
“To date,” Ganor said, “throughout the world, there is no capability of aerial firefighting at night due to civil aviation authorities’ limitations and the huge risk associated with this kind of flight.”
He said experience from around the globe clearly shows that restricting aerial firefighting to the daytime severely limits the operational contribution.
Addressing this gap, Elbit Systems developed the HyDrop solution, which enables a high-precision computed drop of biodegradable liquid pellets from aircraft or helicopters flying at altitudes of 150 m. to 600 m., which are safe and certified for night-flight by the civil aviation authorities, he said.
According to Ganor, the HyDrop system enables, for the first time, continuous operations “to fight fires 24/7 and especially during the night.”
Asked about the different ways the system can be used, Ganor said a variety of aircraft and helicopters are compatible to use HyDrop, which is “equipped with aircraft avionics, including a ballistic computer, command and control and advanced display, alongside with liquid pellets that are stored in a specially designed airborne dispenser.”
Explaining how it works, Ganor said the “aircraft navigates to the drop point and computes an accurate drop trajectory, taking into account aircraft velocity, altitude, GPS location, wind conditions and the weight and shape of the liquid pellets.”
Elbit Systems HyDrop solution command and control display (Credit: Elbit Systems)Elbit Systems HyDrop solution command and control display (Credit: Elbit Systems)
The system, also increases the effectiveness of aerial firefighting, during the day and night, “by eliminating the liquid loss caused by the aerosol effect, which is when tiny liquid drops are vaporized while they are in the air due to the wind and they do not reach the ground.”
On the ground, HyDrop includes a static or mobile pellets manufacturing machine, which is housed in a standard 6 m. container and can “produce up to 10 tons of pellets per hour,” Ganor added.
The biodegradable pellets, which can be filled with either water, foam or fire retardant, have been proved to have no harmful residues, and their dropping has also been tested and found to be safe to crews on the ground.
Asked for examples of aircrafts that the system can be used on, Ganor said that during recent years, Elbit has conducted a series of successful tests of the HyDrop, in both Israel and in other countries, “installed onboard both fixed wing platforms and helicopters such as UH-60, CL-215 [and] AT-802.”
Although Ganor wasn’t able to give a clear answer as to when the HyDrop system will be available to fight fires worldwide, he said they “are witnessing a tremendous amount of interest since the recent fires in both the US and Australia.
“We believe that our unique HyDrop solution will contribute to future aerial firefighting efforts during day and night operations.”