During the year 2022, three Uruguayan ag aviation companies started a project to provide aerial firefighting services in the country. With the support of Brazilian technologies, some of the most traditional companies in the aerial application industry in Uruguay (Charles Chalkling, Bueno Servicios Aereos and 20 Léguas) are making room for a new activity.
After several months in contact with Zanoni Equipamentos, pilot Marcelo Oliver acquired the first hydraulic gate in the country together with his friend Juan Chalkling, who also owns an aeronautical workshop. In addition to installing the equipment on their own aircraft, the maintenance center also equipped an Air Tractor from Pablo Bueno.
The development of the aerial firefighting market in Uruguay was due to demand from the agricultural indsutry, in a very similar way to what happens in Brazil: “the interest in fires arose from the need to put out fires in the field, for our customers farmers in years of extreme drought”, says Bueno.
Based on these initial works, the National Association of Private Aeroagricultural Companies started to help popularize the service: “The dissemination of the activity was driven mainly by ANEPA as a solution to a social problem. Subsequently, similar initiatives were carried out together with forestry companies so that they have a guard and protection service”.
The strengthening of this activity goes hand in hand with its professionalization and, just as it has been happening in Brazil, the ag aviation industry in Uruguay has been realizing the importance of qualification to guarantee a solid growth of the aerial firefighting market.
Bueno recounts the company’s trajectory to start providing this type of service: “we invested in training and obtaining qualifications in aerial fire fighting for our pilots and for our company in general, in addition to the acquisition of new water reservoirs and the acquisition of a Zanoni fire gate”.
The partnership between the Brazilian technology developer and the Uruguayan aerial application companies contributed not only to the neighboring country, but also helped to generate innovations that now contribute to the Brazilian market.
Due to some specific demands from Uruguay, Zanoni Equipamentos perfected the equipment needed to prepare agricultural aircraft for firefighting. After a long period of conversations with the company 20 Léguas, a mechanism was created to give greater precision and versatility to the hydraulic gate.
Marcelo Oliver told us where this need came from: “Here in Uruguay, the fire season often coincides with the agricultural season, requiring the aircraft to act both in aerial firefighting and in the application of products in the field. As we do solids spreading work (especially seeding), we needed a more precise adjustment in the opening of the equipment. This improvement they made for agricultural work also ended up helping with firefighting, allowing you to choose between a launch for a direct attack (salvo dump) or a firebreak (longer and less concentrated)”.
As in Brazil and in contrast to the countries of the northern hemisphere, the Uruguayan aerial firefighting market has developed in isolation from government actions. Companies and entities (be they forestry, sugar and alcohol companies or associations of grain farmers) have organized themselves to protect their properties without depending on the State.
This new service is agreed by days on duty and hours flown, with a minimum of days and a minimum of hours per year. In most of these cases, the aircraft is always ready, whether to spray or spread products or fight fires. With very similar realities among neighboring countries, the Mercosur ag aviation industry increasingly contributes to promoting sustainability and protecting the environment.