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Rain and Sikorsky Demonstrate Early Detection and Rapid Response to Wildfires With an Autonomous Black Hawk® Helicopter

The two companies have demonstrated how an uncrewed Black Hawk helicopter with Rain’s Wildfire Mission Autonomy System can respond rapidly to suppress incipient wildfires

ALAMEDA, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–#autonomyRain, a leader in aerial wildfire containment technology, and Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company specializing in advanced rotorcraft, 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 first-of-their-kind 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.

“In 2023, in collaboration with Sikorsky, we set out to prove that we could receive an alert about a possible wildfire; send commands to launch and fly an autonomous helicopter capable of moving a large amount of suppressant to a fire’s location; then command the helicopter to accurately drop water onto the fire,” said Rain CEO Maxwell Brodie. “We are very pleased with the results that successfully demonstrate autonomous early detection and rapid response.”

Added Brodie: “Ultimately, Rain envisions equipping fire agencies with the capability to strategically position a future fleet of firefighting helicopters capable of receiving and carrying out mission commands to autonomously suppress a wildfire in its earliest stage.”

“By combining Sikorsky’s Matrix aircraft autonomy system with Rain’s wildfire mission autonomy capability, we have shown the potential to put out a wildfire in its initial stage before it becomes a huge problem,” said Igor Cherepinsky, director of Sikorsky Innovations.

Next steps

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.

About Sikorsky Matrix™

Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company, has spent more than 12 years developing and maturing the MATRIX™ technology suite to fly rotary and fixed wing aircraft with reduced crew, or no crew onboard. To date the autonomy software has been successfully demonstrated on 10 rotary and fixed wing aircraft.

As the enabling technology for optionally piloted flight, Matrix technology allows rotary and fixed-wing aircraft to be flown with or without humans on board, depending on the mission. The technology combines software and hardware components to enable safe autonomous flight in obstacle-rich environments.

About Rain

Rain, a leader in autonomous aerial wildfire containment technology, is helping fire agencies more rapidly suppress wildfires during the earliest stages of ignition. Rain adapts existing military and civil autonomous aircraft with the intelligence to perceive, understand, and suppress wildfires, enabling aircraft to be prepositioned in remote locations to accelerate response time. Rain is a privately held company headquartered in Alameda, California.



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