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February 3, 2021 5:00 PM, EST

Google Seeks OK to Test Drones for Firefighting

Drone carrying a FedEx packageGoogle is asking the FAA for permission to test its Wing drone, shown here carrying a FedEx package, in a firefighting capacity. (Business Wire)

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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.

The Alphabet Inc. company’s climate and energy research group said it plans to use the drone at a private property in Firebaugh, Calif., according to a filing with the FAA. The drone, weighing between 55 and 98.8 pounds, is made by Homeland Surveillance & Electronics and is mass-produced for agricultural applications.

The FAA has previously granted waivers to other organizations that sought permission for similar operations. The drone Google is using is designed to spray chemicals on crops, so could theoretically be used to douse a fire. It holds 20 liters of liquid, or about 5 gallons. Loaded up, HSE says the drone can fly for 8 to 15 minutes.

Alphabet continues to develop drone technology with its moonshot project Wing. The main focus has been 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.

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