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Google Wants to Use Drones to Fight Fires

By Lou Whiteman - Feb 3, 2021 at 3:51PM

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The company is seeking FAA permission to test UAVs on a private property in California.

Google is seeking authorization to explore enlisting drones to help fight wildfires as part of parent company Alphabet's (GOOG -0.07%) (GOOGL -0.14%) continued exploration of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for a variety of commercial and government purposes.

The company filed an application with the Federal Aviation Administration to conduct tests of drones at a private property in Firebaugh, California. Google's Research Climate and Energy Group intends to use crop-spraying drones designed by Homeland Surveillance & Electronics, LLC in the test.

A drone hovers over a field at sunset or sunrise.

Image source: Getty Images.

The company in the application said it intends to test both firefighting and monitoring using the drones.

There's a logic to using drones designed to spray chemicals over fields to fight fires, but there are a lot of variables as well. Fires produce considerable heat which can damage drones or make them difficult to operate.

According to Homeland Surveillance's website, the drone under consideration, the HSE-UAV M8A Pro, can carry up to five gallons (20 liters) of liquid and fly for up to 15 minutes. In a fire situation, that would require a large fleet of drones and necessitate software that allows for proper coordination.

Google is no stranger to experimentation with drones. Its best-known effort is Project Wing; as far back as 2016, the company ran a trial delivering burritos on the campus of Virginia Tech. Last year during the pandemic, Wing delivered household goods in Christiansburg, Virginia, and also has tests up and running in Finland and Australia.

Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Lou Whiteman has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (A shares) and Alphabet (C shares). The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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