Google Sought FAA Approval to Test Drones for Firefighting

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Google asked the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration for permission to test drones to research how the technology can help monitor and control fires, before abandoning the effort.

The Alphabet Inc. company’s climate and energy research group said it planned to use the drone at a private property in Firebaugh, California, according to a filing with the FAA. Those plans have since fizzled.

“The FAA filing from Google Research’s Climate and Energy group is a petition submitted almost a year ago for a project we were considering exploring at the time,” a Google spokesman wrote in an email. “We have no immediate plans to re-engage on this work.”

The FAA has previously granted waivers to other organizations that sought permission for similar operations. The drone Google planned to use, weighing between 55 and 98.8 pounds (44.8 kg), was made by Homeland Surveillance & Electronics LLC and is mass-produced for agricultural applications. It holds 20 liters of liquid, or about 5 gallons. Loaded up, HSE says the drone can fly for 8 to 15 minutes.

Alphabet’s drone moonshot, Wing, has mainly focused on autonomous drone delivery to increase access to goods, reduce traffic congestion in cities and help ease carbon emissions. The company said it began working on that technology in 2012.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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