Fires are one of the most devastating mishaps. Intense fires spread over a large area and make it extremely difficult for the firefighters to work with. Large-scale fires also stand in the way of rescue operations as anybody trapped within the affected area may or may not be spotted by the rescuers. During such instances where human work seems inefficient, drones come into the picture.
BEHA M1-AT, a firefighting drone, is an autonomous UAV with a 10-tonne payload capability. It has a wingspan of 11 meters. It is powered by a 2000 horsepower turboprop engine. Firefighting drones date back to the WW2, where bombers and converted civilian jets were used for firefighting but that came with its own risks of pilot safety and increase in costs. The BEHA M1-AT enables the operator to fly a fleet of this drone to the affected area at a much lesser cost compared to manned helicopters. They can primarily be used to put out small fires to ensure that they don’t escalate out of control.
This drone has ‘triple box-wing’ configuration which allows it to takeoff and land in a very short time. It further enables the drone to lift heavy payloads. BEHA can operate from any surface and in confined spaces. With the protection of the propeller in the rear duct, it also lessens the risk of Foreign Object Damage (FOD) during payload delivery runs. The entire airframe of the drone is carbon composite which makes the drone lightweight, extremely strong and apt for anti-fire operations.
Managing Director of Faradair Neil Cloughley, mentioned that due to BEHA’s immense payload capacity it can also be used for mid-air refueling in military environments and can practically reduce the cost to a great extent. Due to BEHA’s low cost and effectiveness, the company is in dialogue with the governing bodies of UK to help induct the BEHA drone in their anti-fire portfolio.
The BEHA is currently undergoing design optimization at Swansea University and scale model flights have been conducted from a satellite office in Sweden. With the rapid increase in fires due to global warming across the world, an autonomous aerial firefighter could help save lives and loss of nature and property, all at a fraction of today’s costs.