Detonating Avalanches With Explosive Drones Isn’t As Dumb As It Sounds

Detonating Avalanches With Explosive Drones Isn’t As Dumb As It Sounds

The concept of dropping sticks of primed dynamite from drones near a ski resort is guaranteed to give any OHS inspectors second thoughts and a dry pen. But considering the way things are currently done, armed flying robots would be a serious safety improvement.

Avalanche control in the US — which, for the most part, means using explosives to safely trigger avalanches when no-one’s around — is a surprisingly non-technical art. For the most part, it involves ski patrollers dropping bombs onto slopes, either by hand or from helicopters.

The more advanced resorts use fancy tricks, like pre-placed gas pipes or, uh, military tanks. But as you’d imagine, those methods aren’t perfect, since they’re a) not flexible, and b) involve firing heavy artillery.

The proposal from Mountain Drones is a lot simpler: use a 15kg multirotor UAV to drop explosives onto the top of any avalanche-prone slope. It’s reasonably cheap, safe as long as Skynet remains tamed, and very flexible. The company says it’s been demoing its drone to Telluride Ski Patrol, who have been unsurprisingly interested.

The only real hangup is from the US Federal Aviation Administration. Currently, the agency doesn’t allow any kind of drone that drops a payload; make that payload primed dynamite, and you have some really nervous bureaucrats.