** EDIT: the AirMed&Rescue Firefighting Roundtable is now available, watch the full discussion on innovation in the global fight against wildfire here **
AirMed&Rescue and Erickson have teamed up to host a firefighting roundtable discussion profiling the latest developments in aerial firefighting at a time when the service has never been more necessary.
Experts in their field from Erickson, Dauntless Air, and Intterra will bring their experience and insights to the roundtable, highlighting how adaptations to aircraft, dedicated mutual aid communications between aerial and ground operations, and more are helping to fight fires more effectively and efficiently.
Jeff Baxter, Senior Director of Research and Development at Erickson, will highlight technological and material innovation that keeps firefighting helicopters at the top of their game, specifically through enhancing aircraft efficiency. These include power-lift-ratio, range extension, and the use of composite materials.
Before the event, Baxter spoke to AirMed&Rescue about the two key benefits of composite materials: “The first is aerodynamic performance. The new blades deliver a major upgrade in the amount of water we can lift at high temperatures and high altitudes, which is the exact operating regime for firefighting. The second critical aspect is that composite materials are modern and readily available, which allows us to stock our factory reliably and produce new blades.”
At Erickson, Baxter is responsible for new products to support existing fleets of aircraft. His varied engineering experience ranges from spaceflight hardware to autonomous flight. Baxter has worked at a variety of aerospace companies including SpaceX and Columbia Helicopters, and was optimistic about how much space there was still available for significant rotorcraft engineering advancements: “Helicopters were originally designed before the advent of modern computing. There are large opportunities to invest in modernizing the data sets that control the aircraft parts so that they can be manufactured on modern automated equipment.”
Looking towards the future, Baxter noted Erickson’s work on autonomous flight as a potential groundbreaker. “Working closely with Sikorsky Innovations to bring autonomous flight to our aircraft is by far the most exciting event so far. It has profound potential to impact the way we manage our forests and could make a dramatic improvement in the lives of millions by enabling heavy-lift firefighting 24 hours a day, regardless of the visual obscuration smoke or darkness.”
Baxter will discuss the innovative new technologies that Erickson are developing to help make aerial firefighting more effective and what the future for the sector could look like in the AirMed&Rescue firefighting roundtable next week.