Water Balloons to Fight Forest Fires

by Matt Ball on December 1, 2007

539w.jpgAn AP story making the rounds highlights the work of Boeing engineer William Cleary who has come up with a system of precision GPS water balloon bombs to fight fires. Cleary won a $100,000 research grant from Boeing in an innovation contest and set out to make the idea a reality.

Cleary worked with Weyerhauser to design the biodegradable cardboard containers that can be loaded on a cargo plane. Each cardboard box holds a biodegradable plastic bladder that holds 240 gallons of water. A fully loaded cargo plane can hold 3,800 gallons, compared to just 2,000 gallons in a typical firefighting helicopter or 2,700 gallons in an air tanker. The water balloons would also drop from high above the fire, with water falling down like rain. As opposed the the low flying dangerous drops of today’s air tankers.

There are clearly advantages to this approach. The concept will now undergo extensive testing before it can be used on federal land.

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