Oregon is turning to drones to help fight forest fires.
The state's Department of Forestry this summer will use an unmanned aircraft to scout the fires, flying the drone into smoky airspace that's too dangerous for manned planes.
The remote-controlled, 5-foot-long helicopter, equipped with a GPS locator, infrared cameras and other technology, will cost about $5,000. The drone could provide useful information about how fires are spreading, officials said.
"You are always looking for improved visibility of your fire," said Brian Ballou, a state fire prevention specialist. A drone "just cuts down on the unknowns."
Drones won't replace larger, manned aircraft that drop water on fires and also produce infrared maps. But if experiments like the one in Oregon are successful, unmanned planes could become an important firefighting tool, officials said.
"I think all agencies think we need a little more testing," said Mike Wilkins, a district ranger at the Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina. But drones have "some potential to keep people safe" (AP/Portland Oregonian, June 22).
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There are no signs of the drought ending in Italy in the foreseeable future.
Tropical Storm Nesat remains on track to barrel into Taiwan and southeastern China this weekend, while flooding rain associated with the future typhoon threatens to trigger more flooding in the Philippines.
As a strengthening storm system converges on the Atlantic coast, pockets of severe weather will develop in the eastern part of the United States into Friday evening.
A rare storm for late July will deliver drenching rain and miserable conditions to a large part of the mid-Atlantic and southern coast of New England to end the week and start the weekend.
Firefighters were gaining control of the massive wildfires raging across southeastern France on Thursday, but warned that the fire danger remains high.
Even though Hurricane Hilary remains well away from the southwestern United States, the storm could still bring hazards to swimmers and surfers in the final days of July.