Forest fires are a persistent problem for the U.S, and our best line of defence is still all too often just men on the ground with backhoes. But combining a remotely-piloted quadcopter with Kaman's unmanned K-Max helicopter could make for a fearsome alternative to smokejumpers.
The joint unmanned K-Max helicopter is already a well-established program, having already successfully completed a trial with the U.S. Marines in Afghanistan. But Lockheed Martin thinks that the K-Max's combination of unmanned capability — which could increase the number of useable hours, and reduce the overall cost of operating the vehicle — and impressive load-lifting capability could make it a good fire-fighting vehicle, especially when paired with a quadrotor for scouting duties.
In the video, you can see a quadrotor using its infrared imager to detect the fire, before the K-Max autonomously loads up with 24,000lbs of water, before using it to extinguish the flames. The K-Max also demonstrated its ability to deliver a golf cart (and, I suppose, other supplies) easily and accurately. [Lockheed Martin via Gizmag]