Drones can be a valuable tool for gathering information and learning about what’s going on in a disaster area. They can also make matters worse.
When it comes to fighting wildfires, aircraft are used to drop fire retardant and water, monitor fire conditions, and provide tactical information to firefighters. Unauthorized drone flights near a wildfire pose a danger of collision with firefighting aircraft. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, drone “incursions” stopped aerial firefighting efforts 17 times in 2021 (as of Oct 18), and 41 times in 2016:
This not only puts lives at risk, but is a federal crime. Per the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, 43 CFR § 9212.1, it is “prohibited on public lands to … (f) Resist or interfere with the efforts of firefighter(s) to extinguish a fire.” It may also violate FAA regulations, as the airspace over a wildfire is often subject to temporary closure.
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