Wildfires in the United States is a national threat that puts the lives of people as well as animals in danger while causing severe damage to property. Although wildfires occur naturally, their unpredicted nature and ability to rapidly spread across masses of land space make wildfire management and control particularly challenging for firefighters. Since 1960, the frequency of wildfires has increased. In 2004 alone, 8 million acres of land in 40 states were burnt in the US due to wildfires. Hundreds of firefighters and rescuers lose their lives in an attempt to suppress the fire, which prompts a growing demand for effective aerial wildfire solutions.
Belgrade, Montana, is one of the regions that is at a high risk of wildfires. In 1988, the greater Yellowstone National Park fire burned more than 1.2 million acres of land. Most of the residences are located in the Wildland Urban Interface, which puts them at a greater risk. Bridger Aerospace, an aerial firefighting company in Bozeman, is working to address the increasing risk of wildfires across state. The Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA certified company, incorporates advanced sensor technology for aerial intelligence, reconnaissance, observation, and mapping. It is making efforts to reduce the wildfire damage to a minimum by mapping out blazes and preventing wildfires from spreading to large areas or populated areas.
An Aerial Firefighting Company in a High-Risk Area
The company was founded in 2014 by Tim Sheehy, a former Navy Seal and recipient of Purple Heart. The company is located at the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport in Belgrade, Montana. It has its support offices in Australia, New Mexico, Colorado, and North Carolina. The Belgrade-based facility covers 30,000 square feet, which it shares with Ascent Vision Technologies, AVT, Bridger’s partner company. The partner company was founded in 2015 as specialists in technology for counter UAS; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR); and air defense. Since then, Bridger Aerospace has been integrating Ascent Vision’s sensor technology into its aircraft for wildfire management and emergency response operations.
Advanced Technology from AVT
Using the integrated technologies from AVT, Bridger developed an efficient firefighting surveillance system, Gen V. The system allows real-time aerial data delivery. The sensor technology the company uses for mapping and observation provides high definition daylight and night-time imagery. Moreover, it allows for hot spot detection and long-range detection and identification of objects. The real-time aerial intelligence, playback functionality, and real-time geo-positioning information help the company in accurate perimeter mapping. The technology assists firefighters in planning a response during active wildfires and helps shape future strategies. In addition to the use of high-tech equipment and systems, the company operates with a strong fleet of purpose-built aircraft.
The company has contracts with several federal and state organizations to provide effective services across the entire country. It has contracts with the US Forest Service, California Department of Forestry, US Department of the Interior, Texas, and New Mexico’s State Fire Marshal’s offices. Bridger provides Type 1 Air Tactical Group Supervisor (ATGS) platforms, Single Engine Air Attack Tanker (SEAT) platforms and next generation Super Scoopers (CL-415EAF) for full-spectrum wildfire response and suppression.
A Strong Fleet of Special Purpose Aircraft
Bridge Aerospace has a large fleet of aircraft that serve a variety of different purposes; including three AC50 Shrike Commander, six AC90 Turbine Commander and four K100 Daher Kodiak. These platforms are initial attack aircraft dedicated to wildfire command and control. In addition to this, these aircraft are used for aerial supervision, airborne and ground resource management, and aerial ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance). Bridger also has two FVR90 that is for Beyond Line of Sight (BLOS) airborne intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. These two aircraft are also used for real-time hotspot detection, thermal imaging, and geo-location.
An A802 SEAT, two CL-215 and six CL-415EAF complete the company’s fleet. There are used for the purpose of wildfire suppression by using highly targeted water bombing. They also serve other purposes, such as search and rescue, passenger transportation, and emergency supply transportation. These aircraft are operated by a team of specialist pilots. The full fleet is highly maintained by a dedicated team of aircraft maintenance experts.
The first company to legally fly a drone over a wildfire, Bridger Aerospace, is playing its part in making Belgrade, Montana safe from the dangers of wildfires. It has acquired four FAA certifications, including Repair Station Operators (Part 145), Air Carrier and Operator (Part 135), Remote Pilot UAS (Part 107), and Aerial Applicator (Part 137). The company makes use of the latest technology and has a team of Montana State University engineers and veterans. The role of the company in combatting wildfires cannot be ignored. The services of this company do not stop here. It is currently playing a pivotal role in the fight against Coronavirus COVID-19.
After considering the current situation of the pandemic in the country, Bridger Aerospace is offering its support to the local emergency services. The company is equipping its aircraft with the necessary facilities to turn it into emergency medical transportation. It has also offered to use its Type 1 Air Tactical Ground Supervisor (ATGS) platforms for aerial transportation. Bozeman Health can use these aircraft to airlift emergency supplies for the treatment of patients. Additionally, most of the company’s crew has been sent to the Bozeman hospital to assist in the completion of 60 hospital beds.
The CEO, Tim Sheehy, said, “Bridger Aerospace is committed to providing support to local health organizations and emergency services. We have volunteered our services and resources to help combat the outbreak and flatten the curve. We will do this while we continue to prepare and maintain our fleet to effectively manage the 2020 wildfire season.”
Bridger Aerospace has become an invaluable asset for the community in Belgrade, Montana. It has become a shield for the state not only against wildfires, a national threat but also against COVID-19, a global threat.