Nebraska isn't known for wildfires, but a Lincoln-based company is getting a lot of recognition for helping fight them.
Drone Amplified's IGNIS product was recently recognized by the U.S. Department of Interior as one of 12 "Made in America" innovations.
Drone Amplified, which was started about two years ago by two engineering professors at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, offers the IGNIS product that attaches to drones.
It carries a payload of ping pong ball-sized chemical spheres that are preloaded with a substance called potassium permanganate. The spheres are injected with glycol before being released, and they then ignite on contact with the ground.
CEO Carrick Detweiler said that delivery method is important for a couple of reasons.
"This is far safer and less expensive than sending in humans on four-wheelers or trying to navigate with helicopters, said Detweiler, who noted that about one-fourth of all firefighting deaths are aviation-related.
Drone Amplified's product has largely been used for starting prescribed burns, but the Department of Interior used it recently to set back burns to help fight wildfires in Southern Oregon, and its Office of Aviation Services will continue to use it to set prescribed burns and fight other wildfires.
While the Department of Interior is probably Drone Amplified's biggest customer, Detweiler said the company has both government and private sector customers in Texas, Florida and even Australia.
"One drone can do the work of several people, and quicker," said Ross Carrie, president of Raven Environmental Services, a Drone Amplified customer based in Huntsville, Texas. "There's a groundswell of excitement about what this technology and drone system can do."
That excitement extends to investors, who just sunk nearly $500,000 into the company.
Invest Nebraska, which was an early investor in Drone Amplified, led the latest investment round in November, which included investments from Nelnet and several members of the Nebraska Angels.
The company also recently received a Small Business Innovation Research Phase 1 grant from the National Science Foundation.
The infusion of money, "really helps keep things moving," Detweiler said.