As forest fires continue to devastate large parts of the American West, a new drone has been deployed to California to help officials fight the flames. This drone is the Mavic Pro Quadcopter and it helps crews gain different vantages on fires, giving them new information.
It can be used when there is a lot of smoke and heat so that firefighters do not have to be put in as much risk on the ground or in a manned aircraft. It also provides a bird’s-eye view to assess the situation before sending the firefighters into the fire. Additionally, there are lighting attachments to help see at night, it can go inside buildings, and it has thermal imaging cameras to pick up heating signals. Drones have been utilized by firefighters in the last few years with great success, and this new drone is no different.
However, the popularity of civilian drones is causing problems in fires worldwide. While firefighters and their drones are deep in the forest combating fires, they have encountered drones from curious civilians trying to get a better look at the fire.
A Facebook post from a California fire department warning civilians of drones.
For example, last week a water bomber tried to put out a forest fire in Manitoba but had to turn back when an unauthorized drone got in the way. Also last week, a California plane was dropping retardant on a fire when an unauthorized drone was spotted and the aircraft had to turn around and land. According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), interrupting firefighters on public land is a federal crime that is punishable by up to 12 months in prison and a civil penalty of $20,000 can be imposed. However, drones are currently not required to have a transponder, so drone operators are difficult to be identified in these situations.