Noosa-based manufacturer develops firefighting tank

As fires rage in areas previously untouched, a local manufacturer has developed a solution for tackling blazes.

The Queensland government has backed Helitak Fire Fighting Equipment with a grant from the state government’s Ignite Ideas commercialisation fund.

The technology is a firefighting tank that attaches to the underside of military helicopters, in particular Black Hawk helicopters. As these helicopters reach the end of their military service period, they are increasingly being picked up by civil emergency services for use in fire fighting due to their ability to fly in tricky conditions.

The current tank, the FT4500, can be filled in less than 50 seconds, and drop in less than five, according to Helitak CEO, Jason Schellaars.

“It is capable of dumping 4,500 litres of water in one drop or being dialled back so that not all of the water or retardant is dropped at once, which is very useful for controlling spot fires,” he said.

“By harnessing the release force of the Black Hawk bomb doors, we can drop water quicker and penetrate deeper into forest canopy.”

Not requiring significant modifications to be mounted onto a helicopter made the water tank attractive for local and overseas buyers. Helitak operations manager, Paul Blundell, will use the funding to grow the company’s Queensland manufacturing base as the company expands.

“This Ignite Ideas grant will allow us to scale up production, create more jobs and manufacture new product lines in future. We will create five new jobs initially, and with our forecast expansion, we will need up to 50 staff within three years,” he said.

“Helitak sources over 85 per cent of the components of the retractable underbelly tank from southeast Queensland businesses. This means we keep most of our manufacturing spend in Queensland too.”

Already, the company has contracts to supply to the US, and interest from New Zealand and the Royal Brunei Airforce. Queensland Innovation Minister, Kate Jones, highlighted the importance of the company’s work.

“This Queensland company has already got significant interest overseas. They’ve demonstrated their ability to scale up and create jobs locally as well as their potential to address a serious challenge here in Queensland,” said Jones.