In Brief
Fighting wildfires is a major issue in the West, and federal officials hope that these unmanned helicopters will decrease the number of casualties and time required to extinguish fires.
Lockheed Martin K-MAX

In an effort to find a safer and more efficient way of fighting wildland fires, federal officials have launched the Lockheed Martin K-MAX, an unmanned helicopter that’s battle-tested and equipped with advanced sensor technology. It’s high tech sensors enable the K-MAX to fly at night and in smoky conditions that might too dangerous for a manned helicopter. Even when communication on ground is cut off, the K-MAX can still complete a task. It communicates in three ways; using line of sight and two satellite links. The K-MAX can also be remote-controlled, but it can also fly autonomously after its been given proper instruction. The pilotless helicopters might be rolled out as early as Summer 2016.

The Advantages

Officials say that with these features, the K-MAX can be of service 24/7 and fight wildfires at any time. The unmanned helicopter concept has already been battle-tested, as it has been used in Afghanistan to move supplies for the troops so that they would be safe from the possible dangers of improvised bombs on the road. In this instance, K-MAX ensures safety for the on-ground staff as well as the communities who are near these wildfires. The helicopter is also low maintenance and considered inexpensive to use at $1,400 an hour.