U.S. officials are looking towards a new piece of technology to help them fight the growing wildfire problem on the West Coast.
Wildfires continue to ravage the West Coast in the midst of a historic drought, and officials are scrambling for new ways of keeping blazes under control. According to a report from ABC, a Lockheed Martin helicopter that can be flown without human pilots may be the latest tool to keep wildfires at bay.
In a demonstration 20 miles east of Boise, ID, the Lockheed helicopter scooped up water and dumped it on targets and dropped off supplies at a distant mountain ridge, all without the help of a pilot onboard.
According to Mark Bathrick, the director of the Department of Interior’s Office of Aviation Services, “Wildland fires are a huge problem, particularly here in the West. I’m a believer in the technology that could be put on other helicopters, that eventually could be put on fixed-wing aircraft- scoopers and air tankers.”
The Lockheed Martin K-Max was able to complete seven tasks in under an hour and a half. A safety pilot was onboard during the demonstrations, and he made sure to hold his hands up above the controls to ensure viewers that the helicopter was in fact being controlled autonomously.
Autonomous helicopters can be extremely useful in fighting wildfires. Often, the blaze is too hot for a pilot to get close. The unmanned chopper can allow greater precision in fighting the source point of the fire, and will undoubtedly save lives and countless dollars in property damage.