By Lindsay R. Mohlere
Over the past few years, I have followed the evolution of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), commonly known as drones, and the significance of the technology relative to forestry and wildfire fighting. One of my first columns railed about drones being a dangerous element thrown into a wildfire scenario by some halfwit looking to grab a few happy snaps with his Kodak strapped to the belly of the bird. In several documented events, these drone sightings over active fires shut down firefighting air assets and further endangered the lives of fire crews on the ground. Unfortunately, it is still happening.
Subsequent columns occasionally talked about drones utilized in infrared real-time mapping operations or their use with LIDAR technology in surveying. Recently, I checked out DroneSeed’s use of UAV swarm technology designed to plant tree seeds in precision areas to boost survival rates.
Most of the drone applications for forestry, aside from wildfires, have to do with analytics and other heady stuff. However, I did run across one drone company that is aimed at providing a practical solution to the difficult and time-consuming logging task that every hook tender in the Northwest performs on a daily basis.
The Homegrown Drone
Pacific UAV Technology of McMinnville, Oregon, has developed a drone and operational techniques for cable logging outfits to string haywire from landings to tailholds and back without having the crew beat the brush up, down, and over rough terrain for a whole day or more.
Pacific UAV is the brainchild of Mark Standley, president of Log-Safe Inc., which was founded in 1987 and develops and implements safety and health programs for contract logging companies throughout the Northwest.
Over the past few years, Mark has been developing and building drones to alleviate some of the difficulties faced by loggers.
“A couple of years ago, I was trying to think about lightening these rigging guys’ loads a little bit and so I was going to try to build a drone that would carry a coil,” says Mark. “It was just too much. Too expensive, didn’t do it; technology wasn’t there. So I backed off a little bit, started working on a little smaller scale and with a drone pulling a string, and it’s been working out really well.”
According to Mark, the drones are limited by the FAA to a total weight of 55 pounds (including bird and payload). The two Pacific UAV models (Hexter and Hexter T) are five-prop rigs built from scratch. Each unit features a flight time of up to 27 minutes, 40 mph speed in Sport mode, dual satellite systems, live HD FPV video from 4.3 miles, and much more.
The drone isn’t for picking things up, it is designed to pull. It can pull 700 feet of firehose off the end of a truck, carry a 300-foot firehose roll, medical equipment, chainsaws, fire tools, and more. At present, the most used application is pulling haywire rigging across canyons at yarder sides.
So far, Pacific UAV has sold 12 drones to several multi-side logging contractors, whose motivation, according to Mark, is not necessarily increased production.
“The guys that are stepping up are guys that have been in the business a long time, and they want to take care of their crew. It’s not about production, because they know it’s going to lead into that. It’s about their hook tenders. Say you got a 30-year-old, he’s doing a great job; am I going to beat him to death for 10 more years, or can I do this and maybe get 20 years out of him?”
To show off the technology and what his drone is capable of doing, Mark has traveled the Northwest and Canada hitting the logging shows and conferences, but admits that at $50,000, it’s a tough sell. “Getting the technology; getting people to believe in the technology. I mean, you can watch all the videos, and people have been following this, but until I take it out there on the job, and they see this seven-minute road change with nobody leaving their position, then they’re going, ‘Okay, I think I can use that.’”
If you’ve ever been in the brush, it’s easy to see there’s no doubt that Pacific UAV has hit the ball into the deep center field bleachers.
If you want to learn more about Pacific UAV Technology, check out their website at www.pacificuavtech.com.
More Good Drone News
Eastside Fire & Rescue in Issaquah, Washington, has joined the drone crowd just in time for summer and fire season. Through a generous donation, three drones will be added to the fire department’s toolbox to help with water rescues, wildfires, and search operations. The drones may also be used to determine how many resources are needed during wildfire, search, and rescue operations, firefighters said.
The largest drone on the department’s roster is a DJI Matrice 210-RTK. It has the capacity to carry and drop a life ring, a small automated external defibrillator (AED), or a cell phone down to someone who needs help.
The drone program is managed and operated by the Eastside Fire Corps volunteers under the direction of Eastside Fire & Rescue. Other fire departments and agencies throughout the region can request to use the drones on operations as long as pilots are available.
Drones are also on the Ashland, Oregon, city council agenda. Seems they’re considering using thermal imaging drones to detect fires and illegal camping and as an aid in search and rescue efforts. At present, the city doesn’t have a UAV policy, but I’m sure that will change with whatever direction the council takes.
Stay safe out there.
Talk back at [email protected].
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