UAV's and Firefighting

The Sacramento Bee and others reported that use of UAV's near ongoing wildfires has taken a new turn.

According to the July 28, 2014 edition of the Bee:

  • An unmanned aircraft that aimed to get video of the blaze burning near vineyards in the Sierra Nevada foothills east of Sacramento was sighted Sunday, two days after the fire broke out, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokeswoman Lynne Tolmachoff said.

  • Authorities told the man controlling the drone to stop it from flying because of the potential danger to firefighting planes. The man, whom Tolmachoff did not identify, was not cited.

  • "This is the first one that I'm aware of," she said. "These unmanned aircraft are becoming very popular with people, and there's a possibility we will see more of them."

Certainly, interference with firefighting is a sufficient reason to bar a UAV flight - even at a low altitude since manned firefighting aircraft often fly at a very low altitude. The broad prohibitions against all commercial uses, though, are much harder to justify.

- Steve Rosen