Why don’t we leverage the pinpoint accuracy of intelligent guidance systems and the safety of unmanned aerial vehicles to fight forest fires by dropping water and/or retardant?

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Why don’t we leverage the pinpoint accuracy of intelligent guidance systems and the safety of unmanned aerial vehicles to fight forest fires by dropping water and/or retardant?

In: Technology

A tomahawk missile costs 1.5 million dollars and carries a payload of 1,000 pounds.

That’s about 119 gallons of water, or less than one minute of using a fire hose.

Over a million bucks to spray a firehose for 45 seconds…

You would need an insane amount of fire retardant or water to actually combat a forest first.
Places with lots of water aren’t prone to catching on fire in the first place and it would cost *alot* to fly that stuff around.

And that “pinpoint accuracy” would only be useful right when a first is starting. Literally within the first minutes. So would need thousands of drones patrolling the skies 24/7

The unmanned aerial vehicles in use today is designed to deliver a relatively small payload of just a few tens of kilos of explosives. But forest fires tends to spread beyond the extinguishing capability of this little water in just a manner of seconds. It may be possible to carry more water if instead of dropping guided bombs and rockets to deliver the payload the aircraft could drop only water. However these aircraft rely on their guided bombs for the precision and are designed to fly high above the terrain where they would be unable to hit anything. Especially as the wind around the mountains and generated by the fire will be enough to blow the water far off target. This is why firefighting aircraft fly extremely low as this is the only way to reliably hit the fire. But the wind is too complex and can change too quickly for even the best autopilot systems we have.

Pinpoint accuracy does basically nothing to improve fire fighting

Fighting forest fires isn’t a question of accuracy, its a question of *volume*

A relatively small fire in Utah burned 12,000 acres and required almost 600,000 gallons (~5 million pounds) of water. Small unmanned craft aren’t going to be able to help you with this.

Even a relatively large UCAV like the General Atomics Avenger (Predator C) can only carry 6,500 pounds of stuff(~780 gallons) per trip and is going to be fairly expensive to operate over the 770 trips it would need for a relatively small fire.

Something like an older and much bigger P-3A Orion can carry 3,000 gallons per trip. Now we’re talking about much more effective trips that can effectively neutralize a small section. You’d only need 200 trips. For even bigger jobs you can pull in a DC-10 Air Tanker and get 12,000 gallons in one go

In all of these scenarios, pinpoint GPS accuracy has done nothing for you, and you still need a sizable ground crew to turn around the aircraft so moving the pilots to the ground instead of the air doesn’t help either.

Fire fighting isn’t an high tech engineering problem, its a simple machine problem. How do I move millions of pounds of fluid from point A to point B. Small fancy buckets perform worse than a single massive simple bucket