Bill Packard: Flame-throwing drones and ‘What could possibly go wrong?’

Tue, 11/26/2019 - 1:45pm

In a recent casual conversation, a friend mentioned that he’d seen a news item about a drone equipped with a flamethrower.  Well, of course that got my interest, so I Googled it and sure enough: It’s actually an attachment that you can buy for your drone that turns it into a flamethrower. What could be any cooler than that? 

Let me tell you a little more about it.  It holds enough fuel for 100 seconds of flame throwing and can shoot a flame 25 feet.  I was so excited at this point that I didn’t read further but suspect that you fire it with your smart phone.  Those things do everything these days.  If you’re interested, these are available for just $1,499.  No.  I didn’t leave out a decimal point.  That’s a penny shy of $1,500.  I was on the verge of ordering one when I remembered that I don’t have a drone because I flew it away.  

Thankfully, that one didn’t have the flamethrower attachment.

If you’re wondering what practical use a drone flamethrower might have, you’re guilty of small thinking. 

According to the website, this baby is ideally suited for clearing debris from power lines, remote agricultural burns, forest fire containment and my absolute favorite, pest management and nest elimination.  Sounds pretty exciting, doesn’t it?  What could possibly go wrong?

After the initial excitement wore off and realizing that I didn’t own a drone, I took what I think is an objective look at this breakthrough in technology and have some concerns.

I’m not being sexist here, but by far, most of the videos involving drones show males flying them.  Why there aren’t more women featured, I have no idea, but I suspect women would be much better pilots than men because they’re focused, detail oriented, safety conscious, etc.  All things men are not really noted for. 

So, we have men flying the drones with the flamethrowers.  There will probably be many instances where used properly, these will prove to be invaluable, but then there will be the rest of the story. I can see carnage from innocent mistakes as guys hit the launch button when they didn’t mean to.  Sooner or later, some guy will decide to shoot the flamethrower at something just to see what happens.  Probably something that should not be hit with a flamethrower.  Two guys with flamethrower drones would be an absolute disaster. 

I mentioned the flamethrower drone to a guy and his first thought was wondering how it would work to melt snow off a roof.  See what I mean about how guys think? 

Reporter: “How did the fire start?” 

Fire Chief: “The homeowner was attempting to melt the snow off his roof with a drone flamethrower when he caught the house on fire.  He had read in the manual that drone flamethrowers could be used in forest fire containment and assumed that applied to containing house fires, as well. He was wrong.”  

My friend Richard has some serious issues with brown tail moths in the oak trees around his house.  He is doing the responsible thing, cutting the trees down one by one, burning the nests, cutting up the trees and chipping the brush. If he had a drone flamethrower, he could burn the nests in the trees without cutting them down. 

I see significant time and energy savings right there.  He could perhaps even turn that into a business where he goes to locations and burns the nests.  I would hire him to come do mine because unlike the rest of us, he’s responsible, focused, detail oriented, and safety conscious.

But Richard does not reflect the male population.

What about the rest of us?

The first thing that I see happening will be innocently setting random things on fire because we can. That thrill will be short lived, and we’ll be looking for MORE. 

Perhaps we’ll write our name in a field. The possibilities are endless. 

Here’s what really troubles me:  Sooner or later, and probably sooner, alcohol will be involved. At this point, it’s all downhill. Men, drone flamethrowers and alcohol.  Nothing good can come of that.  The only good I can see coming from this is I can get more material to write about. Stay tuned.

Bill PackardBill Packard lives in Union and is the founder of He is a speaker, author, small business coach and consultant.