FAA slowing drone use to fight wildfires

Fire fighters hoping to use drones to “map a fire’s size and speed, and identify hot spots,” are running up against FAA regulation. A New York Times story notes a drone is precluded, “from operating out of sight of a ground-based pilot. If distance or the smoke of a wildfire obscures a drone from observers on the ground, a piloted aircraft must be sent aloft to keep an eye on it.” Fire fighting is but one of many facets of drone use the FAA, federal government and U.S. citizens are debating.


  1. Greg W says

    I can imagine the usefulness of the drones, maybe a UAS far above the fire remaining in a “hazard TFR”. At lower altitudes they could surly be a problem. Just think of the call to the tankers, “Tanker 123 bandit!!, two o’clock, one mile!!! The air attack pilots have enough to keep track of without adding a UAS to the mix. If they can be used while not interfering great, if not keep them out of the way and let the tanker pilots help keep the ground pounders safe.

    • says

      I have been a wildland firefighter for 23 fire years. I am going to start my UAV camera drone business to benefit the tactics fighting wildland fires The benefits are many. First I would like to address the airspace safety issue. Wildfires always have TFR established. Air space is always managed and communicated on fires. Pilots are always informed of other traffic in the area. The use of these aerial assets will save lives. They can be hand launched in the field to give real time coverage of fire activity. The images can be sent to operations in ICP who make decisions on tactics. There will be no need to send a fire observer, FOBS to investigate spot fires over the fireline. We have lost people because they pushed the envelope for reconnaissance reasons. Safety officers who walk the fireline share responsibllity for everone on the line. They are on the move constantly to ensure fire safety for us. They can’t be everywhere when things get busy. With this tool a low level birds eye view will show them what and where the fire is and its activity. It will expose the constant updated need for escape routes and safety zones required for building fireline At the same time exposing the natural firebreaks we use to tie the control lines expediting the progress of line scouting. They can fly low and slow in the “deadmans curve” where rotorwing aircraft are jeopardizing safety. I have in been on incidents where there have been fatalities and knew the victims. They wouldn’t have died if we had this technology in place. The Granite Mtn hotshots were killed last sunday. If they had real time coverage of fire activity they would be alive now. The also weren’t notified of the incoming thunder storm which reversed the wind driven flames. These tools will come on and the benefits are multifaceted. Infared, fireline mapping, aerial mapping, They fly under inversions when we can’t launch a helicopter for observations. Again the overhead who make tactics to control the fires will have real time images to make right now decisions to expedite the forces safely, quickly and effectively. They will save money lives and property. They will have clear airspace and be in the air for a short time. They are in place and can be deployed when other aircraft aren’t available. They will literally give the aerial knowledge that is not always available to expedite suppression on fires that will save lives, save money, reduce fatigue, time and loss of energy for the people giving it all and more to save resources, lives and money. I could add lots more benifical reasons, but it is late, I am working on fires now in Alaska and need rest. Thanks for reading this. Dave Reese single resource boss.

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