U.S. Forest Service urges public not to fly drones over fires
In light of two disruptions while fighting two different fires in the San Bernardino National Forest last week, the U.S. Forest Service has called for the public not to operate unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), or drones, over or near wildfires.
According to the U.S. Forest Service, wildfire air tanker operations were suspended on the Lake Fire on June 24 and again on June 25 with the Sterling Fire in the San Bernardino National Forest after drones flown by members of the public were detected.
The Forest Service said in its news release that drones pose a danger to pilots who operate air tankers and helicopters because they fly at very low altitudes while attempting to fight fires. Commercial and hobby drones fly at similar altitudes, usually no more than 400 feet above ground level, and creates potential for mid-air collisions.
Operations could be affected, which would limit agencies’ efforts to combat a fire and risk injury to the public and fire crews alike.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has established guidelines for the use of commercial drones, including prohibiting them from being flown over restricted air space. Temporary flight restricts are placed during wildfires, and require non-emergency manned or unmanned aircraft to obtain permission from fire managers to enter the air space.
FAA guidance for members of the public flying UAS for hobby or recreation purposes is available online at http://www.faa.gov/uas/model_aircraft.
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