The U.S. Forest Service is exploring a new tool that could help wildland firefighters do their jobs: a drone that drops tiny firebombs. The remote drones carry a hopper of what are essentially incendiary paintballs.
Scientists at the University of Nebraska developed the drones to start controlled burns. The mechanical precision could be useful for firefighters setting prescribed burns in the wild.
These intentional fires consume fuel that might otherwise feed uncontrolled fires. They also help fight invasive plant species and return useful nutrients to the soil. Right now, they’re set by hand or from helicopters.