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You know that old saying “fight fire with fire”? Or were you supposed not to do that? Either way, these three dudes from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln have taken the phrase literally, and have now started working on developing a fire-fighting drone that shoots fire.
Just watch the video.
The idea is that the Unmanned Aerial System for Fire Fighting, or UAS-FF, or as I like to call it “the fire-raining drone” would fly over small, uncontrolled fires, and then burn off the surrounding area (in a totally predetermined, planned way) by dropping ping-pong sized balls full of potassium permanganate powder. Before being dropped out of the drone, the balls are injected with liquid glycol which causes the balls to catch on fire upon landing.
It might sound crazy (at least to regular, non-fire-setting people), but the method of precisely setting things on fire so they don’t catch on fire at random has been around for a while and a recent study has shown that landowners are less at risk when using prescribed fires than with other, more commonly used fire management methods. Unfortunately, fire is a rather unpredictable element, so the method isn’t as common as, say, throwing bucketloads of water onto the blaze to extinguish it.
Hopefully this drone would help solve that problem as drones can be controlled remotely and precisely, and would definitely cost less money than spraying water from a jet.
So far, the fire-hailing drone has been successfully tested indoors and the team (Sebastian Elbaum (from left in the above picture), Dirac Twidwell and Carrick Detweiler) are currently seeking funding to continue the operation. Because, why not.
I guess it must be expensive developing small, mechanical, flying dragons.
Let’s just hope they don’t turn against us. Running away from flaming ping-pong balls is not how I’d like to spend my evenings.