While some people are getting excited about drones that can deliver coffee or books, a Bay Area company is testing much larger and stronger drones that can deliver life-saving supplies to firefighters on the front lines of wildfires.
Parallel Flight Technologies is testing large drones, able to haul payloads of 100 pounds, near Santa Cruz.
"To allow the aircraft to fly longer and carry a heavier payload," Parallel Flight Technologies CEO Joshua Resnick said.
Resnick, who nearly lost his home in the CZU Fire, said the drones will act as pack mules to bring critical supplies to fire crews, even in remote areas.
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"We can bring tools, fuel, food, first aid, hose packs, right to the front lines of a fire, drop it off where the crews need it so they don't have to hike as far to get it," he said.
Able to fly for hours at a time, the Parallel Flight drones are already getting noticed by fire departments.
"That's a game-changer," Cal Fire Battalion Chief Scott Watson said.
Fire officials point out that drones, unlike people, are not limited by fatigue or stress on the fire lines.
"They can fly at night without hazarding a pilot," Watson said. "They could also fly at zero visibility. They could also fly autonomously to where they could perform missions until we tell it to stop."
Parallel Flight said its heavy-lifting drones should be ready for action some time in the next year.
The company said it has been getting interest both from state and local fire departments as well as private helicopter companies.