When it comes to airborne delivery systems—be it crop dusting or firefighting—Thrush Aircraft has plenty of experience, which makes the company’s recently announced a plan to begin development of an unmanned tanker aircraft for fighting wildfires particularly interesting. Even more interesting is that the company will be collaborating with UAS manufacturer Drone America for the project.
According to Thrush, the goal is to create an autonomous fire-fighting aircraft that will be capable of delivering up to 800 pounds of water or fire retardant, have the ability to provide prolonged tactical surveillance and be able to operate at times and locations where it might be too risky for people to fly. Though it is still very early in the development process, Thrush is hoping to combine the larger-airframe of its planes, along with the company’s airborne delivery system expertise, with the capabilities of Drone America’s Ariel UAS. The Ariel if fully amphibious, can act as a communications relay, carry thermal imaging cameras and has a payload of around 350 pounds.