Nebraska Wildfire Fighting Pioneer Gets $1M to Advance Drone Capabilities

EditorPress Release

Drone Amplified Awarded Grant from the National Science Foundation  

Lincoln, Nebraska, Oct 16, 2020 – Drone Amplified, the Nebraska-based company that has pioneered wildfire fighting with drones, has been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant for $983,676 and a Nebraska Department of Economic Development matching grant for $100,000.

The funding is to conduct research and development (R&D) on increasing the safety, decreasing the costs, and increasing the effectiveness of firefighters battling wildfires.

Today, firefighters are unable to perform the backburns needed to contain wildfires without putting firefighters at risk. This project will result in technologies that directly address the critical pain points of firefighters by improving the intelligence and capabilities of drone systems.

“We have seen the horrible impact that wildfires have had this year throughout the country. The support of NSF and the Nebraska Department of Economic Development will help us transform firefighting technology to enable faster containment of wildfires and a significant reduction of risk,” said Carrick Detweiler, CEO and Co-Founder of Drone Amplified.

The research will result in innovations in algorithms for coordinating groups of robots, deep-learning approaches and the development of novel datasets, algorithms that can predict fire activity and plan missions and autonomous health monitoring approaches. This project has the potential to transform how fire management is conducted by ensuring safe, fast, affordable, and more capable aerial ignition.

“NSF is proud to support the technology of the future by thinking beyond incremental developments and funding the most creative, impactful ideas across all markets and areas of science and engineering,” said Andrea Belz, Division Director of the Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships at NSF. “With the support of our research funds, any deep technology startup or small business can guide basic science into meaningful solutions that address tremendous needs.”

Once a small business is awarded a Phase I SBIR/STTR grant, it becomes eligible to apply for a Phase II grant. NSF accepts Phase I proposals from small businesses at any time. Small businesses with innovative science and technology solutions, and commercial potential are encouraged to apply. All proposals submitted to the NSF SBIR/STTR program, also known as America’s Seed Fund, powered by NSF, undergo a rigorous merit-based review process.

To learn more about America’s Seed Fund, powered by NSF, visit:

About the National Science Foundation’s Small Business Programs: America’s Seed Fund, powered by NSF, awards $200 million annually to startups and small businesses, transforming scientific discovery into products and services with commercial and societal impact. Startups working across almost all areas of science and technology can receive up to $1.75 million in funding to support research and development (R&D), helping de-risk technology for commercial success. America’s Seed Fund is congressionally mandated through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. The NSF is an independent federal agency with a budget of about $8.1 billion that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering.


More on IGNIS and Drone Amplified

IGNIS is equipped with a hopper that carries a payload of standard ping-pong ball sized chemical spheres. It can be integrated with infrared and other types of cameras. The spheres are pre-loaded with potassium permanganate and later injected with antifreeze prior to being released.  The spheres ignite after hitting the ground, setting off back burns to create defensive lines for firefighters in rugged and sometimes unreachable terrain. IGNIS is easily controlled and automated with a custom App and allows drone operators to release the spheres with a high degree of accuracy in terrain that’s often difficult to detect with helicopters or airplanes. The drone’s dynamic ability to fly in densely smoky, high-altitude areas makes it extremely useful.