BOISE, Idaho — The future of wildland firefighting launched Wednesday morning in Idaho.
A Lockheed Martin helicopter capable of flying autonomously with no human control did so as it scooped up water, dropped it on target and delivered supplies to a distant ridge in a demonstration in front of top federal decision makers 20 miles east of Boise.
The U.S. Department of Interior and the U.S. Forest Service say new methods are needed to fight increasingly ferocious wildfires.
The pilotless helicopter with high-tech sensors can fly at night and in smoky conditions too dangerous for manned flights, tripling the amount of time aircraft could be attacking blazes.
Federal officials say other companies besides Lockheed Martin are also being considered.
Officials say the pilotless crafts could be flying above fire lines next summer.