Fighting Wildfire With Fire — With Drones
Fireballs dropped from drones could give the Forest Service more control over wildfires, with less risk to firefighters.
The U.S. Forest Service is exploring a new tool that could help wildland firefighters do their jobs: a drone that drops tiny firebombs.
Scientists at the University of Nebraska developed the drones to start controlled burns.
SEE MORE: If It Feels Like Wildfires Are Getting Bigger, It's Because They Are
The remote drones carry a hopper of what are essentially incendiary paintballs.
"Each ball is rotated and injected with alcohol to start a chemical reaction before being dropped to the ground. Seconds later, the ball ignites," a video from the University of Nebraska explains.
The mechanical precision could be useful for firefighters setting prescribed burns in the wild.
These intentional fires consume fuel that might otherwise feed uncontrolled fires. They also help fight invasive plant species and return useful nutrients to the soil. Right now, they're set by hand or from helicopters.
The U.S. Geological Survey thinks using drones to do it could be safer — air accidents have accounted for about a quarter of firefighter deaths in the U.S. since 2000.
But there's still a lot of red tape in the way before drones can start distributing fire themselves. The U.S. Forest Service still treats them as full-size aircraft, with all the same training and maintenance requirements. And the FAA has strict rules against drones carrying "hazardous materials." Fireballs would probably qualify.
This video includes images from Getty Images and clips from Harvest Public Media, the University of Nebraska, YouTube / Dirac Twidwell, the U.S. Forest Service, California Office of Emergency Services / CC BY 3.0, Lockheed Martin, NASA and Marcus R. / CC BY 3.0. Music provided courtesy of APM Music.
Mississippi tornadoes kill 23, injure dozens overnight
The tornado hit about 60 miles north of Jackson, Mississippi, sweeping through towns at 70 mph without weakening as it raced toward Alabama.
How natural disaster clean-up falls on cities with limited federal aid
Some natural disasters have communities cleaning up for months or years, often on their own dime.
A furry friend has the best chance of saving lives in avalanches
Avalanche dogs can search acres of terrain in a fraction of the time humans can. Frank, a black lab in Snowbird, Utah, shows us how.
Putin says Russia will station tactical nukes in Belarus
Russia used the territory of Belarus as a staging ground to send troops into Ukraine, and Moscow and Minsk have maintained close military ties.
Texas police: Migrants found 'suffocating' in train; 2 dead
Migrants routinely travel through Uvalde, Texas, where the migrants were stopped, often leading to high-speed vehicle pursuits.
Officials: 2 dead, 5 missing in chocolate factory explosion
Some residents were displaced from a neighboring apartment building that was damaged in the explosion.