Drones interfere with aviation operations on Pinal Fire

Above: Undated Inciweb photo of the Pinal Fire.

Four separate incidents involving hobbyists flying drones are hindering operations on the 4,991-acre Pinal Fire since the fire was detected May 8 in the Tonto National Forest five miles south of Globe, Arizona.

The latest drone sighting occurred May 24, 2017. An air tanker flying over the fire was forced to release its retardant at a higher altitude for safety reasons. The higher drop reduced the retardant’s effectiveness on the fire. Subsequently, aviation operations were suspended until the drone issue was resolved.

On May 20, 2017, a law enforcement officer cited a hobbyist for flying a drone near the Pinal Fire.

Pinal Fire map
Map showing heat detected by a satellite over the Pinal Fire. The red dots are the most recent, from 3:15 a.m. MDT May 26, 2017.

Forest Service officials continue to emphasize that flying drones over or in close proximity to wildfires is illegal, endangers aviators as well as crews on the ground, and slows operations which potentially could result in the fire increasing in size.

Deputy Forest Supervisor Tom Torres, Tonto National Forest, explained that flying a drone near a wildfire is, in fact, breaking the law.

“The U.S. Code of Federal Regulations 43 CFR 9212.1(f) – indicates that it is illegal to resist or interfere with the efforts of firefighter(s) to extinguish a fire,” Torres said. “Doing so can result in a significant fine and/or a mandatory court appearance.

Drone operators determined to have endangered manned aircraft or people on the ground and/or interfered with wildfire suppression may be subject to civil penalties, including fines of up to $25,000, and potentially criminal prosecution.

Management of the fire

The Pinal Fire is being managed, not aggressively suppressed. One of the objectives is to create a continuous fuel break between the Pinal Mountains and the town of Globe five miles to the north.

Firefighters are involved in preparation and defense of structures and infrastructure along the indirect control lines from which firing operations could be conducted where necessary to maintain low intensity fire conditions and prevent unwanted impacts to the values at risk.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Tom.
Typos or errors, report them HERE.

FAA sends email to drone users about flying near wildfires

Several times in the last 10 days drones flying near wildfires have required that firefighting aircraft cease operations, sometimes for hours at a time.

Yesterday the Federal Aviation Administration sent a mass email to individuals who have registered their drones with the agency, warning them that “drone operators who interfere with wildfire suppression efforts are subject to civil penalties of up to $27,500 and possible criminal prosecution”.

FAA email drone warning
FAA emailed drone warning, June 29, 2016.

Time lapse of prescribed fire at Homestead NM

This is a time lapse of the 23-acre prescribed fire that was partially ignited by an unmanned aircraft system, or drone, April 22 at Homestead National Monument in southeast Nebraska. During the test, firefighters with drip torches lit the perimeter, while the drone ignited the interior.

More information about the use of the drone on the project.

Video report: Drone used to ignite prescribed fire

Earlier today we reported on the unmanned aircraft system, or drone, that helped to ignite a prescribed fire in Homestead National Memorial in southeast Nebraska. This video includes images from the burn plus interviews with five key members of the team that made it happen.

Drone used to ignite a prescribed fire in Nebraska 

(UPDATED at 4:40 p.m. CDT, April 22, 2016)

The use of an unmanned aerial system, or drone, to ignite a portion of the prescribed fire at Homestead National Monument west of Beatrice, Nebraska appeared to be successful, according to the participants we talked with at the completion of the project. After the perimeter was ignited by hand using drip torches, the drone launched to the interior and dropped plastic spheres which burst into flame about a minute after landing on the ground. The spheres are similar to the ones dropped by helicopters for aerial ignition on large wildfires and prescribed fires. This project was 26 acres of grass that had received heavy rain which ended about 30 hours earlier. The ground was wet but the thatch was mostly dry and greenup had started. The temperature was in the high 60s and the relative humidity was around 40 percent. The wind was light, a few miles an hour.

Homestead Rx fire drone

The drone only holds 13 spheres, compared to the hundreds or more that fit into the hopper of a full size machine carried by a piloted helicopter. The drone made around half a dozen or so sorties, returning to the launch spot each time to reload. It followed a predetermined pattern each time, flying to its assignment, dropping the spheres in a line, then returning.

After the first sortie it returned with its full load of spheres. A radio communication problem prevented the deployment of the devices. After this was worked out it went fairly smoothly. At several points, however, the hand igniters had to wait for the drone to launch and light its assigned locations before the firefighters could continue working their way around the perimeter.

Most likely these bugs can be worked out.

Homestead Rx fire drone

Homestead Rx fire drone
A drone is launched to ignite a portion of a prescribed fire at Homestead National Monument.
Homestead Rx fire
Staff from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln introduce unmanned aerial systems, or drones, that were used to ignite a portion of a prescribed fire at Homestead National Monument.

Below is a video report about the project. It includes images from the burn plus interviews with five key members of the team that helped make it happen.

Scroll down to see more photos:

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