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Drone Fire-Fighting Tested in Nebraska (ap.org) 38

An anonymous reader writes: Friday Researchers at the University of Nebraska flew a drone over a prairie test site, dropping small containers the size of ping-pong balls to ignite controlled fires. "The fires clear out brush to make it easier to control wildfires on the prairie," reports the Associated Press, citing a National Park Service spokesperson who believes it could help clear overgrown vegetation in hard-to-reach areas. "The technology is already used by helicopters to start controlled burns," reports the AP, "but researchers note that the drone is cheaper and more portable. 'You could afford one of these on the back of your fire truck, whereas you probably can't afford to have a full-sized helicopter parked at your fire station,' said Carrick Detweiler, a member of the Nebraska research team."
One engineering professor tells the AP, "Imagine them having this in their backpack, pulling it out and telling it, 'Hey, go scout out there. Check whether it's hot. Check whether it's safe..." And this Omaha news site has video footage of the drone fire-fighting test.
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Drone Fire-Fighting Tested in Nebraska

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  • "Imagine them having this in their backpack, pulling it out and telling it, 'Hey, go scout out there. Check whether it's hot. ..."
    yeah imagine terrorist/protester/prankster/etc with backpack drone with fire-making ping-pong balls saying that.

  • Skynet (Score:5, Funny)

    by goldaryn ( 834427 ) on Sunday April 24, 2016 @05:21AM (#51976719) Homepage
    Let's hope Skynet never gets a hold of this thing. Because if you think birds pooping on your head is annoying,,
    • by antdude ( 79039 )

      In Chinese culture, being pooped on the head by birds mean you will get married. So far, I am still not married and that incident happened about 25 years ago. :(

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I've actually been over at the Nimbus Lab and have seen this drone and several others. They work on projects that require drones to get close to whatever they're interacting with. This is one such application. As I recall, they have a drone that collects water samples from remote ponds and lakes. Another drone is designed to wirelessly charge devices in locations that aren't easily reached by people.

  • than the summary.
    For a second I thought that drones had been programmed to have a firefight. As with guns and stuff.
    That would have been bitchin.

  • by Gravis Zero ( 934156 ) on Sunday April 24, 2016 @07:33AM (#51977021)

    this will go great with my arson bot!

  • Prairie is basically flat land which means there should be access roads in the area for firefighting. Containment lines are typically created by back burning (starting a fire such that it burns back into the wind) from the access roads. The access road acts as a fire break for creating these couple of hundred yard wide fuel dead zones.

    A quad bike and a drip torch is going to be just as quick but far more cost effective than a drone in such a situation.

    Change the geography to a more mountainous region such a

    • by wbr1 ( 2538558 )
      Yeah but testing the concept in flat, high visibility areas with easy access to problems makes sense.

      Which is what they were doing here... testing.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Much of western Nebraska is actually quite hilly. The Sandhills are sand dunes covered by grass. There aren't a whole lot of roads in the Sandhills. It's actually a legitimate issue in parts of Nebraska.

  • ... of native habitat for bees and other worthless wildlife!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ScentCone ( 795499 )

      I know! Let's immolate every last bit of native habitat for bees and other worthless wildlife!

      Does it physically hurt to be that much of a moron? Or is it more of a numbing effect, so you don't really know that's how you are?

      The entire point of small controlled brush burns is to prevent the leaping, raging wildfires that DO destroy huge swaths of habitat. The most destructive fires we see are those that take place in areas where small brush fires have been continually extinguished, preserving the fuel that nature would normally have burned off along the way through lightning-strike fires and the

      • When you have gotten over yourself, try investigating the status of wild bees and their decline due to the elimination of brushy zones. Then you might sound like something more than a loud-mouthed ignoramus in love with his own voice.
        • Meanwhile, you're sticking with your notion that the people who use small controlled burns to prevent hugely destructive wildfires which destroy vast numbers of wild bees are out to ruin wildlife because they're foolish evil people who hate nature and whatnot. Your own holier-than-thou posturing is the problem here, not the work that's done to prevent massively destructive, habitat-killing out of control fires. It's people like you that, through railing against such actions, cause more destruction to natura
          • I'm simply pointing out the relevant application of the law of unintended consequences. You're the one waxing histrionic with your florid prose. If you were actually paying attention, you would realize that the burns are taking place to protect developed areas, as in the photograph. It is the islands of native species habitat, adjacent to developed areas, which are being burnt. These islands of habitat amidst development have been found to be crucial to numerous species. You will learn about some of these t
            • You're the one waxing histrionic with your florid prose.

              No, you're the one who opened up by implying that firefighters are heading out to slaughter wildlife, instead of save it. Now you're saying that's just a rhetorical flourish or something, and you didn't really mean it?

              • As I have explained, the issue is real. Period. Clue up.
                • So, controlled fires in small wilderness areas destroy more wildlife than huge, uncontrolled fires that burn those exact same areas and hundreds or thousands of times more acres full of wildlife. Gotcha. X = Bad. X*100 = Good.

                  I sure hope you merely whine about things you don't understand, rather than having any sort of role in establishing policy.
                  • Clearly, your lack of reading comprehension skills excludes you from meaningful discourse on this subject.
                    • No, what happens is that you carefully avoid addressing the point being made, and resort to juvenile ad hominem in order to lamely change the subject. Let's try this again.

                      Which is worse:

                      1) A small controlled burn that, alas, does indeed damage part of Wilderness Area X.


                      2) An out of control wildfire that COMPLETELY destroys Wilderness Area X, and dozens more just like it.

                      Pick one of those two. Ideally, with some intellectual integrity involved in the process.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Note to moderators: the parent should be modded as flamebait or troll. It's terribly wrong.

      The prairies actually need to be burned in order to exist. It's essential for the native plants and animals. If the prairies don't burn, trees start to grow. The shade kills the native grasses, which in turn destroys the habitats for native animals like birds that nest on the ground. The grasses are also a food source for native animals like bison. The fact that prairies exist and the Plains weren't taken over by tree

  • Drone Regulations (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I actually know Carrick and a couple of other people in the Nimbus Lab. They do some cool stuff with rotary wing aircraft, described in a previous comment on this story. Their lab includes an indoor facility surrounded by nets that's used to test the drones. I am familiar with what they do, though I don't work with them, I use drones to study thunderstorms. My work uses fixed wing aircraft to sample thunderstorms and their environments, with the goal of using drones to aid in forecasting tornadoes.

    It's tire

  • by Anonymous Coward

    How about 10,000 of them each carrying a gallon of water. They could form an intelligent almost continuous airborne stream of water from a lake to a fire front or to at risk properties with no risk to human life and surprisingly low cost. Could charge from truck based generator charging stations . work out the cost of 10,000 cheap drones at about $50 each compared to the cost of 1 huge helicopter and the pilots and support Crew and all the maintenance required. Now eliminate personal risk, and keep in mind

  • I sure know I will feel safer with the knowledge that fire trucks rolling down the street have the equipment on-hand to start a fire. Makes perfect sense.

"There is nothing new under the sun, but there are lots of old things we don't know yet." -Ambrose Bierce