Google seeks FAA approval to test fire-fighting drones

Google's Research Climate and Energy Group wants to use a crop-spraying drone to test out fire-fighting and monitoring operations.
Written by Stephanie Condon, Senior Writer

Google this week asked the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for permission to test out the use of drones for monitoring and fighting fires. The request comes as the FAA slowly expands sanctioned drone use in the US. 

Specifically, Google's Research Climate and Energy Group said it wants to run tests using the HSE-UAV M8A Pro unmanned aircraft system -- a crop-spraying drone built by Homeland Surveillance and Electronics. The Google Research group plans to test fire-fighting and monitoring operations at a private property in Firebaugh, California.

Google's sister company, the Alphabet-owned Wing, already has FAA approval to test out commercial drone deliveries

Back in December, the FAA released much-anticipated new rules allowing drone flights over people and at night under certain conditions. Then just a couple weeks ago, the agency gave its first-ever thumbs up to the use of automated drones without human operators on site. The Boston-based American Robotics, which develops automated drone systems for rugged environments, received the FAA approval. 

Meanwhile, the FAA has already granted at least one waiver approving the use of drones to respond to wildfires. Back in September, the agency approved an emergency request from Verizon to use industrial drones to inspect critical infrastructure affected by wildfires.

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