FAA praises drones that help firefighters fight wildfires – DroneDJ

Amid the wave of giant fires that have burned more than 6 million acres of land in the United States this year alone, the theft of private UAVs in emergency areas has been repeatedly accused of having hampered efforts to extinguish the flames. Now, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is also praising how drones have become an essential tool for firefighters battling wildfires.

The FAA has described the contributions of drones to bona fide licensed craft operating around wildfires in a pair of related releases. The first was the most recent of his The air up there podcasts titled “Drones revolutionize the fight against forest fires. “The second was a item partially taken from that by Chris Troxell of the FAA. Together, they describe how the official vision for UAVs operating around fires has shifted from apprehension and expectations of trouble to a growing enthusiasm for using the craft to fight – and even prevent – fires in open areas. .

In its early days, the rapidly expanding use of drones among individuals was viewed by authorities as an emergency scenario problem waiting to occur. Back then – as indeed this year – the FAA saw enthusiasts defy warnings and fly their drones around wildfires, creating hazards or interference with helicopters and other aerial vehicles seeking to aid firefighters. on the ground. It wasn’t until 2015 that the US Forest Service began experimenting with the craft on its one and quickly put together an in-house UAV program to harness their considerable contributions.

“If you look at this time of 2015 and the platforms we (use) now – increased endurance, better sensors, better integration into the airspace – this is an incredible tool for increasing situational awareness. decision-makers on the ground, ”Dirk Giles, the Forest Service’s drone program manager, told Troxell.

His unit has continuously increased the number and deployment of its UAV fleet. It currently has 65 qualified pilots and their ranks are expected to double in 2022. The FAA says these and hundreds of drones also used by public safety agencies and firefighters across the United States provide vital situation data and more. information to fight fires more quickly and with reduced danger to the humans involved.

Thanks to Government special interest process providing lightning-fast, 24/7 responses to requests for restricted flights, the FAA has issued more than 80 emergency clearances from national and local authorities to deploy the craft in forest fire scenarios this year only.

The FAA also notes that drones have proven to be effective for firefighters in a counterintuitive way: by igniting flames themselves. The Forest Service uses the device to ignite flashbacks on the approaching underworld paths, consuming grass, trees, and other fuel they would need to keep moving once they arrive.

The agency also uses UAVs to burn about 1.2 acres of land that it incinerates each year as a method of land management and fire prevention. Helicopters were previously used in these aerial ignition missions over often remote and inhospitable terrain, but not without cost. Sixteen accidents causing 16 fatalities have been sustained in these missions in the past eight years alone.

The FAA also noted how drones allowed firefighters to undermine ongoing wildfires with innovative and precisely piloted flashback lighting.

“For example, there was a fire that devastated a hill going down in a community,” Giles told Troxell. “The aerial ignition operators (drones) fired very late at night, and they just slowly lowered the fire down from the top of the ridge, just adding a little fire here and there… (That way) we really start. to control the intensity and start to manipulate it.

Despite its growing and now vocal enthusiasm for the craft in firefighting, the FAA still reminds private pilots to keep their drones away from fires – and firefighting drones risk disrupting.

Photo: Issy Bailey

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