Drones: Friend or foe of firefighters?

While civilian-operated drones pose significant dangers for firefighting operations, the use of drones by the fire service holds many potential benefits

By Leischen Stelter, editor of In Public Safety

On July 12, a civilian-operated drone forced firefighters battling a 35-acre wildfire in Southern California to ground supporting air tankers. This was the fourth such incident in a month where a drone disrupted firefighting efforts in California, according to a news article in FireRescue1.

While federal authorities attempt to restrict air space over wildfires, many civilians continue to illegally fly these unmanned aircraft without permission in an effort to get a bird’s eye view of the fire.

​[Related Article: Court Rules on Civilian Drones Used to Record Police]

“These drones are airborne in an area where live pilots are flying. Pilots cannot see these four by four-foot aircraft especially since they are often made of material that can’t be picked up by radar,” said Captain Peter Jensen, a 26-year wildland firefighter with the Ventura County Fire Department in California. “Drones are dangerous because pilots and air traffic controllers have no way of anticipating what ground-based pilots are going to do with these aircraft.”

Full story: Visit the In Public Safety blog

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