U.S. officials eye pilotless helicopter to battle wildfires

Carey Fredericks
October 15, 2015 | Boise, Idaho
The future of wildland firefighting launched Wednesday morning in Idaho.

A Lockheed Martin helicopter capable of flying autonomously with no human control did so as it scooped up water, dropped it on targets and delivered supplies to a distant ridge in a demonstration in front of top federal decision makers 20 miles east of Boise.

"Wildland fires are a huge problem, particularly here in the West," said Mark Bathrick, director of the Interior Department's Office of Aviation Services. "I'm a believer in the technology that could be put on other helicopters, that eventually could be put on fixed-wing aircraft — scoopers and air tankers."

The Lockheed Martin K-MAX put through its paces on Wednesday completed seven tasks in about an hour and a half. A safety pilot was aboard, often holding his hands aloft to indicate to about 200 observers that he wasn't using the controls. | READ MORE

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