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Firefighting Drones in Forest Fires

Firefighting Drones in Forest Fires
September 16 2020

The use of drones by federal incident management teams to fight wildland fires has increased in recent years, including in some of the hard-to-reach sections of the west coast forest fire these past two weeks.

The most widely adopted use for drones is what is called burnout prevention. Where a drone drops an ignition to create a controlled fire to burn out dead trees. However, drones are now doing more than the burnout prevention exercise with surgical precision. The Unmanned Aircraft Systems also scan the edge of fires with an infrared camera to identify hotspots where crews can bury or douse rogue embers that hop containment lines. 

Most importantly, drones reduce the need for helicopters. That’s important in a pandemic fire season when aerial attacks are a critical tool in knocking down fires before large camps of ground crews are needed to defend lives, property, and resources.

The recent forest fires have pushed for American agencies to adopt drones at a more rapid pace. Indeed, 69 of the 347 public safety agencies that have purchased drones in the past five years are firefighting departments. In as early as 2017, FDNY first deployed drones in fighting a fire in a building in the Bronx. And now with the newly raised awareness, drone firefighting will be more broadly embraced. Goldman Sachs estimated the total addressable market to be around $1BN in the niche of drone firefighting.


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Firefighting Drone Companies:

EHang is a company based in Guangzhou, China that develops and manufactures autonomous aerial vehicles and passenger AAVs which have entered service in China for aerial cinematography, photography, emergency response, and survey missions. On December 12, 2019, EHang has been listed on the NASDAQ with the symbol EH. On March 18, 2020, EHang decided to go into a strategic partnership with Llíria, a Spanish city. An urban air mobility solution is to be developed. This includes tourism as well as logistics. The City Council and EHang will also work with the Spanish Aviation Safety and Security Agency. Llíria is already the second city in Spain, EHang has an agreement.

Aerones is the emergency services’ new best friend. The Latvian drone is one of the world’s strongest and can be used to do dangerous jobs that are out of human reach. In May 2017, the company initiated the first-ever human skydive from a drone, when Ingus Augstkalns was carried to a height of 330 metres before being let free and parachuting to the floor. Whilst this may just sound like an elaborate stunt, the ‘drone jump’ proved to Aerones that its drone could be effective in disaster zone search and rescue missions.

DJI is a world-leading manufacturer of commercial unmanned aerial vehicles (commonly known as "drones") for aerial photography and videography. It also designs and manufactures camera gimbals, action cameras, camera stabilizers, flight platforms, and propulsion systems and flight control systems.  The company's products have also been used by militaries and police forces, as well as terrorist groups, with the company taking steps to limit access to the latter. US government institutions have issued statements discouraging their internal use of DJI products, but as of 2020, various agencies at the local and federal level continue to use DJI products.

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Funding & Deal Highlights:

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Snowflake is going IPO this morning at a reported 30BN as reported by PrivCo. Last week, Berkshire Hathaway and Salesforce each agreed to buy $250M of stock at the IPO price in a concurrent private placement. Berkshire Hathaway also agreed to buy 4.04M shares in a secondary transaction from former CEO Bob Muglia.

Real estate startup Orchard announced Thursday it closed on a $69M Series C round led by Revolution Growth, bringing its total funding raised to $138M.

San Francisco-based startup Ribbon Experiences secured a $1.2M seed round to propel its one-stop-shop for live and recorded events to the next level.

Grand Rounds, a leader in healthcare quality and clinical navigation, announced today it has secured a $17M round led by investment funds affiliated with global investment firm The Carlyle Group and will use the funds to accelerate clinical navigation and virtual primary care.

Reliance Retail raised $1.02BN from Silver Lake, kickstarting a fundraising spree months after its sister venture Jio Platforms raised $20BN.

NotCo, a food-tech company operating in Latin America, closed an $85M Series C funding. The company intends to use the funds to scale up operations and expand internationally with an entry into the United States.

Deel — which provides payroll, compliance tools, and other services to help businesses do that in a more seamless way — is announcing $30M in new funding to double down on the opportunity.

Truepill, the white-label healthcare services company that provides telehealth and pharmacy fulfillment services, is adding at-home medical testing as the third branch of its services powering the offerings of companies like Hims and Hers, Nurx, GoodRx, and Ro (a former customer). 

Chairish, the 7-year-old San Francisco-based company announced a $33M Series B round of funding Thursday led by Tritium Partners. Additional participation in this round includes previous investors Altos Ventures, Azure Capital and O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures. With this new funding, the company has raised nearly $50M to date.

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