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China has a flamethrower drone, and a surprisingly good use for it

In the exciting world of remotely controlled multi-rotor flying machines — known popularly as “drones” — an increasing number of businesses are waking up to the idea that the technology could prove useful in their own line of work.

Already, movie production outfits big and small are making full use of camera-equipped drones, while other industries such as entertainment, agriculture, and real estate are also looking to incorporate the unmanned aerial vehicles into their operations.

Of course, regulatory hurdles still play a major part in the extent to which the technology can be used by commercial bodies, a matter that continues to present Amazon with huge challenges as it seeks to launch a drone-based delivery service.

In China, however, these hurdles appear to be about as high as your knee, certainly if this electric power maintenance company in Xiangyang is anything to go by.

In a usage that would have the Federal Aviation Administration breaking into a cold sweat if the proposal ever landed on its desk, the Chinese firm has attached a flamethrower to an octocopter to clear trash caught on power lines. Perhaps other solutions were deemed too, well … dangerous?

In a video demonstration (above), we can see the copter flying close to some trash caught on the power line before the attached incendiary device lets rip, reducing the debris to a puff of black smoke. The pilot in the video looks confident enough handling the flamethrower drone, though there’s one brief moment where, as the machine returns to the ground, a colleague appears to scuttle nervously out of the way.

Clearly, holding the controller of this thing would be a good time to bring up the issue of a pay raise with your boss.

Whether you think the trash-clearing flamethrower is an ingenious idea or rather foolhardy likely depends on your attitude toward risk, but for the time being at least, this particular company seems perfectly happy with its new fire-spewing toy.

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