Drone program to prevent wildfire-fighting interference

Drone halted local firefighters on 2016 Fritz Fire

Building on recent initiatives to prevent privately operated Unmanned Aircraft Systems or drones from interfering with Federal, State, and local wildland firefighting activity like the Fritz fire outside of Laurel last summer that halted planes from dropping flame suppressant, the Department of the Interior announced today that it is expanding and enhancing its wildfire location data-sharing program for 2017. The new service being offered is called “Current Wildland Fires” and is accessible through the Geoplatform ArcGIS Online Organization.
“By providing greater public access to a wider array of wildland fire location data, drone operators will Know Where Not To Go in near real-time,” said Mark Bathrick, director of Interior’s Office of Aviation Services. “As the 2017 wildland fire season gets underway, this improved service should greatly reduce the incidents of drone incursions on wildfires and enhance the safety of our firefighters and the communities they work so hard to protect.”
The 2017 program provides location data on any wildland fire reported in the last eight days, compared to last year, when the service only offered information on wildfires reported within the previous 72 hours. The 2016 program included wildland fires reported by Interior, the U.S. Forest Service, and two States (Alaska and Texas). This year’s program includes the addition of Wyoming, North Dakota, and Los Angeles County, California. The program plans to increase coverage to include more Federal, State, and local reported wildland fires.
On average, more than 73,000 wildfires are reported across the United States each year. About 98 percent of these fires are contained within the first 24 hours, before incident managers request the Federal Aviation Administration to issue a Temporary Flight Restriction. That meant that most of these fires were never plotted on dynamic aeronautical maps or available to drone operators before Interior launched its 2016 initiative to make fire location data available to commercial mapping services that support drone operations.
The Federal Aviation Administration established registration criteria for hobby drone operators and penalties for violators.
For more information a visit the Department’s Office of Aviation Services at www.doi.gov/aviation or download the User Guide pdf document. More information on wildland fire available @DOIWildlandFire.
  

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