Firefighting helicopters have been able to scoop water from the ground for some time, but this new tech allows them to do it without needed people standing by to tend the process. Either way, it’s pretty cool to watch.

What you’re seeing demonstrated in that short video is what’s being called a “Remotely Activated Snorkel Site” which uses “uses robot-controlled valves to tap into an area’s municipal water system, allowing quick access for snorkel helicopters,” according to the Orange County Register.


The valve is set up with a 1,700 gallon tank which fill with water, which is then sucked up into the chopper through that dangling proboscis, and is then dumped on the ground to fight fires.

“This really can reduce the amount of time it takes to refill and can significantly reduce the number of water drops they can do during firefighting operations,” Anaheim Fire spokesman Daron Wyatt told the OC Register. Apparently a helicopter can now drink “nearly 2,000 gallons of water within 45 seconds.”


The device is the brainchild of Los Angeles County Fire Battalion Chief Mark Whaling, who also owns Whaling Fire Line Equipment developing firefighting tech. He told local news he got the idea after the destructive “Canyon 2 fire” when he was wishing airborne firefighting vehicles could collect water more quickly.

These new automated aerial hydrants cost “between $30,000 to $50,000 to install” which is apparently about twice the price of a regular hydrant. Orange County, California is currently putting the hydrants through tests and trials.

Hat tip to Bret and Nosrat!

Reviews Editor, Jalopnik | 1975 International Scout, 1984 Nissan 300ZX, 1991 Suzuki GSXR, 1998 Mitsubishi Montero, 2005 Acura TL

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