Fire-starting drone represents a new direction in wildfire preparedness

Blog Post created by audreycooney Employee on May 20, 2016

fire-starting-drones-1.jpgFor almost two years, researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) have been working on a drone that can set fires while airborne, with the intention of making controlled burns easier. As reported by Gizmag, the team recently carried out real-life testing of their creation, which they say will help reduce the risks facing firefighters by letting them set controlled burns remotely.


The aircraft carries balls of potassium permanganate powder that are injected with liquid glycerol before being launched to the ground. The combined chemicals set off a reaction that ignites the materials within 60 seconds after landing.


Controlled burning lowers the risk of dangerous wildfires by removing built up underbrush that could fuel an out-of-control blaze. This method, called a prescribed burn, has been covered in NFPA Journal® as a critical part of reducing the threat wildfires pose to communities. Currently, firefighters use helicopters and handheld launchers to avoid being too close to intentional burns. It’s thought that drones have the potential to be a more efficient and affordable alternative.


NFPA Journal® has also covered the growing prevalence of drones, robots and other unmanned vehicles as emergency response tools in a 2015 article, Rise of the Machines.  Drones will also take center stage during NFPA’s Conference & Expo in Las Vegas during the keynote address. Don’t miss the chance to learn more about how drones, robotics and key analytics are helping to solve today’s fire problems.


Photo courtesy of University of Nebraska-Lincoln