As reported by wavy.com, the new drones are in development at Langley Research Center, and are intended to be used to find and fight fires (as well as provide help for underfunded local fire departments.) NASA aerospace engineer Mike Logan, who heads up Langley's unmanned air vehicle lab, explained, “The theory is that we should actually be able to see smoke rising up, or we should be able to see the hot spot with the infrared...They’re going to be doing so many missions that flat out can’t be done now. People can’t afford to do them now because of the expense.”
Fires in rural areas that would often go unpatrolled, or that might naturally occur in the depths of the wilderness, can now be monitored and dealt with before they become a more serious issue for civilization. The drones are especially useful for this task, as they can fly in storms that other aircraft or humans would have a more difficult time dealing with.
Although the drones only have 20-25 minutes of flight time at 40-50 m.p.h., they could cut significant costs for fire departments and eventually cost very little per launch. Originally developed as Army target drones, the 15-pound aircraft could save firefighters and citizens a ton of trouble.
|These drones don't want pictures of YOU, they're looking for something much hotter.|
BTW, that's NASA aerospace engineer Mike Logan, and it seems like his life is awesome.
(Image courtesy fireengineering.com.)