Monday, July 20, 2015

More on Unmanned Aircraft Systems (drones) incursions near wildfires

downloaded from on June 24, 2015
I first wrote about the hazards that unmanned aircraft systems including hobby drones when flown near or over wildfires on June 24th. In the time since then drones have been sighted over some other wildfires out west, including the North Fire (Wildfire Today, June 19th)  that shut down the I-15 northeast of Los Angeles on Friday, June 17th. I am sure that most of you know that this fire burned several vehicles on the I-15. There was also, according to the North Fire Inciweb page, first reported on July 18th), a drone over the fire that shut down air operations for 25 minutes

I noted this at the time, pondering whether or not to write more about this drone incursion. Then I saw the most recent update of the North Fire from Inciweb (July 20th about 12:30 PM -- what you see when you access the North Fire Inciweb page may differ). I'd like to share with you what this inciweb update (July 20th about 12:30 PM)  says about drones:
An Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS or drone) halted tanker operations for about 25 minutes on Friday afternoon (June 17th), but operations soon resumed. 
Hobby drones, or (UAS) unmanned aircraft systems, pose a major safety threat to firefighting pilots and firefighters. When a hobby drone is flown into a fire area, incident commanders have no choice but to suspend air operations and ground aircraft until the drone is removed from the area. 
As hobby drones have grown in popularity, we have seen an increase in these drones interfering with firefighting operations.A collision could easily result in major damage to our aircraft, injuries to the pilot and crew on board as well as firefighters below, and worse, a midair collision.

When drones interfere with firefighting efforts, a wildfire has the potential to grow larger and cause more damage. On most wildfires, an FAA Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) is put into effect and any private aircraft or drone that violates the TFR could face serious criminal charges. 
Even without a TFR, anyone who hampers firefighting efforts could face charges as well. (Inciweb on North Fire (July 20th about 12:30 PM)
The US Forest Service has a great webpage with good information about UAS or hobby drone safety over thier lands and other federal lands: Tips for Responsible Hobby or Recreationals Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) or "Drones" on National Forest System Lands.

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