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News & Notes

Don't Fan the Flames

It's wildfire season: Leave the drone at home

June 29, 2016

The FAA and U.S. Forest Service have issued warnings to drone pilots to stay away from the blaze. 

U.S. Forest Service
Please, do not fly your drone around wildfires without the permission of authorities. If the numerous stories of drones interfering with this year’s wildfire firefighting efforts aren’t enough to dissuade you, the FAA has also issued a formal statement.

The FAA declares, “Drone operators who interfere with wildfire suppression efforts are subject to civil penalties of up to $27,500 and possible criminal prosecution.”

You might be thinking that your low-flying drone isn’t going to be interfering with any high-flying firefighting planes or helicopters. But in in these situations, drones and emergency response aircraft operate in the same airspace. Your attempts to capture cool shots of the fire are putting lives in danger.

If you really do want to help, learn how unmanned aerial systems can operate around fire and follow in the footsteps of volunteers like Garret Bryl: work with your local fire department, follow the chain of command, and know when and where you are needed.

What does Bryl think of irresponsible pilots? “They need to either work with emergency services or stay the heck out of the way,” he says.

There are many beautiful, fascinating locales to fly your drone that allow you to capture scenes of natural beauty. Just don’t fly in areas where you’re jeopardizing the wellbeing of emergency services, the environment, and local communities.

Unsure of whether or not you’re in a susceptible area? The National Interagency Fire Center has issued a forecast of this year’s wildfire outlook, which you can read here. Also, take a look at this live wildfire tracker that pinpoints active blazes so you know which locations to avoid.

But if you’re still curious about drones and fires, pick up the July/August issue of Drone360 to learn about how fire departments across the U.S. are starting to utilize the potential of UAS to help extinguish the flames.

Featured image: Kiowa County Media Center