Military aircraft rely on a wide variety of sensors, satellite trackers, an autonomous flight capabilities to hunt down bad guys. That’s not the only way such technology can be put to use, especially when there’s a dangerous situation that’s still unfolding here on the home front.


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2015 has brought the worst wildfire season on record so far, and it cold get worse. In an effort to fight and contain the destructive blazes, the U.S. Forest Service, state fire agencies, and other organizations are putting some of the most advanced high flying military technology to work.

Spotting And Stopping Fires In The Distance
When fighting fires in the western United States, extinguishing the flames is just one part of the challenge. A lot of fire fighting is about fire detection.

Heat seeking cameras, night vision, infrared sensors, and other reconnaissance technology that the military uses to seek out the enemy, lends itself nicely to spotting potential wildfires before they blaze out of control. This tracking technology is capable of detecting flames from a distance of ten miles, and it also makes it easier to keep track of ground crews far below.

Extinguish With Precision
When wildfire blazes need to be extinguished as efficiently as possible, the new K-MAX helicopter may be one of the latest assets. This full-sized helicopter is remotely operated and could be used for targeted water dropping, cargo transport, and building fire lines.

The K-MAX was built by Lockheed Martin and Kaman Aerospace and was recently demoed outside of Boise, though it’s not yet determined if and when this craft will be deployed.

The Cost Of The Wildfire Fight
California, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming, Idaho, New Mexico and other western states are all paying close attention to this technology as much of the west coast has had to deal with the costly danger of wildfires.

Credit: Gila National Forest

While this technology doesn’t come cheap—at tens of millions for just one or two aircraft—that’s been called “pocket change” compared to the hundreds of millions in damage that wildfires can and have caused. If 2015 is any indication of what we can anticipate from future wildfire seasons, then no firefighting technological investment may be too big.

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