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Drones and Wildfires Don’t Mix

M3 August 12, 2019 0 comments

See smoke? Stay away!

We have seen an eruption of drones or “remotely piloted aircraft systems” into the sky over the past four years, as improved functionality and the decreased cost of drones have allowed more people access to the technology.  For only a few hundred dollars, photography buffs have been able to capture amazing aerial perspectives with drones, but there are limits to when and where you can fly. In times of emergency, using a fleet of drones can be a game-changer. Whether you are using drones to help with fighting wildfires, managing inventory at mine sites, or searching for fugitives, having an aerial perspective is a game-changer.

“More drones are flying, so there’s more probability that incidents could be reported.”

But as a recent article by CBC indicates, as the number of drones in Canadian skies increases, so do the number of ‘incidents’ between crewed aircraft.  Ryan Coates, the manager of Transport Canada’s Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) Task Force, indicated in the article that “more drones are flying, so there’s more probability that incidents could be reported.“  This presents a great risk to crews that are dealing with the ever-increasing number of wildfires in British Columbia and the Territories.

In another article, CBC reported that 2019 has been an unprecedented year for wildfires, with over 100 fires burning in the Arctic as of August.   Whitehorse has had a couple close calls throughout this Summer, with smaller fires breaking out on nearby Grey Mountain, the ominous plumes of smoke clearly visible in the city.

Give them space!

It is important to know that any time there is an emergency scene, such as a wildfire, planes and helicopters are flying all over the place to fight the fires, so it is important to give them space, and not to put them or anyone else at risk by flying a drone in their airspace.

New Drone Regulations in Canada

The new Canadian RPAS regulations released on June 1st clearly outline the requirements for anybody operating drones weighing 250g or more. Everyone who uses drones of any weight should at least familiarize themselves with the new rules before they take to the air so they understand when they will need to get certified.

As for the firefighters, they’re also using drones to help them find hot spots, spread fire retardant, or just scope out the extent of the fire from a safe distance.  The difference between the ground crews fighting the blaze and the public flying around wildfires, is that the flights are done in close coordination with the aircrews to avoid dangerous incidents.  It is the new reality of drones that the entire aviation community is now facing, and it’s here to stay.

Do you think drones are making our lives safer, or less safe? Our ground school courses will help you fly safely.