The plastic sphere dispenser (PSD) known colloquially as the “Ping Pong Ball Machine” was designed for rapid, low-cost ignition of fine fuel over long fire lines from helicopters. Plastic spheres containing potassium permanganate are injected with ethylene glycol (antifreeze) as they are ejected from an aircraft. After a delay of about 20 seconds a chemical reaction causes the plastic spheres to ignite. The PSD is installed in the passenger’s compartment behind the helicopter pilot, and the operator sits next to the PSD. The operator receives commands from the fire boss in the front seat. This aerial ignition equipment is easy to setup and use because there is no mixing of flammable liquid, and the operator and burn boss are in the ignition aircraft. Dispensing can be adjusted to achieve ground distances of 4 to 70 feet between spheres.
References / Additional Information
Cook, D.W. and Hayden Pass Fire Crew. 2016. PSD aerial ignition demonstrated and explained: Plastic sphere dispenser. PIO365 YouTube Channel: https://youtu.be/3iPNOw-oQgo