Friday, June 26, 2015

Drones (UAS) shut down air operations over wildfires in San Bernardino NF (CA)

A few hours after I wrote if drones (uas) are flying near wildfires airtankers and helicopters can't fly on June 24th, a "hobby drone" was spotted over the Lake Fire (San Bernardino National Forest, CA) shutting down air operations over the fire, see the June 24th evening update from the Inciweb Lake Fire incident page.

CAL FIRE reported on their Facebook page on June 24th:
Tonight a hobby drone grounded firefighting aircraft by flying over the Lake Fire in San Bernardino County. When you fly...we CAN'T! Puts our pilots and firefighters lives at risk. Drones near wildfires are not safe.
As I understand it, the drone (UAS) was spotted around 5:30 PM local time on June 24th flying between two aircraft, an Air Tactical Group Supervisor and a lead plane. All aircraft (including air tankers) who had been working the Lake Fire that evening were grounded. See this article from KTLA 5 in Los Angeles for more information (including the video reporting on this incident which I hope is embedded below) on this incident. I understand from the KTLA 5 reporting that drone was flying at about 800 to 900 feet over the fire. Air operations over the Lake Fire resumed yesterday morning sometime after the video report was made.

You may also want to read an excellent article (dated June 25th) that just came to my attention by Jim Steinberg and Joe Nelson of the San Bernardino Sun discussing the danger drones (UAS) pose to air operations over wildfires, a discussion of the current FAA regulations affecting drones (UAS) and an interview with a drone operator. Steinberg's and Nelson's article (with video clip from Mike Eaton, US Forest Service Aviation Officer discussing the incident) may be found here.

Just last night (June 25, 2015), another drone (UAS) was spotted over the Sterling Fire in San Bernardino National Forest. According to the report on the Sterling Fire Inciweb incident main page on June 26th (10:26 AM):
Drones temporarily halted tanker operations, but operations soon resumed. One drone was interfering with fire operations and has not been located. A second drone was reported by a concerned citizen and it was located. After reviewing the footage it was determined that it was not interfering with fire operations.

Updates to Inciweb's individual incident pages for wildfires are updated on a regular basis, sometimes a couple of times a day, when the fire is active. Unless otherwise specified, links to Inciweb incident pages in this article are for the latest update and may not reflect information referred to in this article.

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