Just In: Google is planning to test drones for fighting fires

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Google’s Wing unit is already testing drone delivery services in various locations around the world, but the company is now considering using the same technology to fight fires.

The Google Research Climate and Energy Group — also known as Google Research and distinct from Wing — recently requested permission from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to test a drone “at a confined private property in Firebaugh, California,” according to Bloomberg on Wednesday, February 3.

The flying machine sought by Google is made by Florida-based Homeland Surveillance & Electronics (HSE), which specializes in agricultural drones. It weighs between 55 and 98.8 pounds and would be used for “testing firefighting and monitoring operations with first-person-view technology,” according to the document submitted to the FAA.

Specifics about Google’s plans for firefighting drones are currently scarce, but given that some of HSE’s machines are already used for crop spraying, it’s easy to imagine one of them being modified to eject water.

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Drones are being used by an increasing number of fire departments around the world, though in most cases they are used to monitor ongoing fires and provide firefighters with real-time data so they can tackle a blaze in the safest and most efficient way possible.

However, as technology advances, some fire departments are already testing water-spraying drones that can quickly reach elevated or difficult-to-reach locations. Last year, firefighters in Chongqing, China, for example, conducted a drill (pictured below) using several pilot-controlled quadcopters and water fired from a high-pressure hose connected to a tank on the ground.

Drone technology has advanced dramatically in recent years, with an increasing number of companies providing a wide range of services ranging from filmmaking and mapping to industrial inspections and even wind turbine cleaning.

Strict regulations are currently the most significant impediment to increased drone deployment, with the FAA constantly assessing the safety of related technologies as they enter the market. Google is now awaiting word from the agency on whether it will be permitted to test its own drone-based system for firefighting operations.

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