John A. Hoffman, who appears to be associated with Fire Termination Equipment, Inc., has applied for a U. S. Patent for a very different type of air tanker. This air tanker would be an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that would be transported by a mother ship and released near the fire. It would then be piloted remotely from either the mother ship or from the ground, and after dropping retardant on the fire, would land to reload, or might be a single use aircraft and would be “destroyed in the release step”. In the latter case the UAV would be “possibly constructed of frangible material so as to crash into the fire area”.
The patent application includes two options for transporting one or more UAVs to the fire area.
- Externally mounted to the aircraft to the “underbelly, side of the transport aircraft, or the like”.
- “The present invention also contemplates that one or more UAVs can be placed within the transport aircraft, and either released from a rear exit, such as a B-727 having a rear opening door, or ejected from a side interface wherein the transport aircraft includes side-access doors fitted with a mechanism including rails or the like to move in position the UAV from inside of the transport aircraft to outside of the transport aircraft for launch or jettison.”
If this invention ever sees the light of day, which is EXTREMELY DOUBTFUL, firefighters will see air tankers crashing into the ground around them as the aircraft are “destroyed in the release step”. And this would be a benefit to firefighters, the public, and the environment how, exactly? I can’t even imagine what the cost per drop would be of a system like this. And then there are the indirect costs of removing the wreckage, repairing the environmental damage, and payment of the death benefits to the families of any firefighters that might be killed by the crashing aircraft.
As we said earlier, the inventor, Mr. Hoffman, appears to be associated with Fire Termination Equipment, Inc., according to the patent application. The company has an unusual and very vague idea to develop a Rapid Aerial Inferno Neutralization System (RAIN) that, according to the web site:
…delivers massive payloads (of artificial rain) to fires with surgical precision, and it can be deployed 24/7 and in any weather, including winds and smoke.
This RAIN system may be the same one that is described in the patent application, but the web site offers no details about how it would work. The site does have a some information about experiments conducted with small UAVs.
We put these concepts into our “lame-ass ideas” category.