Fire has fascinated humanity for eons. Now that spring wildfire season is here, the Department of Natural Resources reminds recreational drone pilots to ground their gear during wildfires.
Not only is flying a drone over a wildfire dangerous, it’s illegal: Federal law prohibits interfering with firefighting operations, and that includes flying a drone over a wildfire.
There are two main reasons drones pose such a problem: The first is because they fly at roughly the same altitude as wildfire suppression aircraft and can get in the way of them trying to do their jobs. The second reason, and probably the most important is the risk is that they pose to the aircraft itself. Even a small drone can cause a fire-fighting helicopter to crash if the drone makes contact with the aircraft or, in the case of an airplane, gets sucked into the engine.
DNR wildfire section manager Paul Lundgren touches on both these issues, saying, “Drones can collide with firefighting aircraft, which can cause a serious or fatal injury. If we see a drone over a wildfire, we have to land our firefighting aircraft until we get the drone out of there—and that costs us precious time in suppressing the wildfire.”
This happened recently during a wildfire in Little Falls, causing DNR pilots to land firefighting helicopters because a drone was buzzing overhead. The was able to spread unchecked, and the ground crews were put at further risk, during the time that the helicopters were grounded.
If you find yourself flying a drone in the vicinity of a wildfire (we’re not exactly sure why you would be doing that – maybe to get some epic footage for Instagram? Or some awesome footage for a news story you want to write?), it’s probably best to bring it home instead.
For more information about drones and wildfires, log onto the National Interagency Fire Center.