Drone technology expansion to assist wildfire efforts pushed by US lawmakers


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Federal Aviation Administration pushed for advancement of drone technology

Legislation from both the House and the Senate in the United States has put forward a call for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to make plans to develop and broaden the usage of drones in tackling wildfires.

This plan will additionally involve opening up federal lands to serve as testing sites, according to Roll Coll.

The use of drones to better inform wildland firefighters

Drone advocates have expressed that these moves will provide wildland firefighters with enhanced information on conditions, thus reducing the need for personnel to be physically present in high-risk areas.

Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev. stated: “I’ve heard from wildland firefighters and local governments first hand about the need to better coordinate all aerial aspects of wildfire detection, prevention and suppression.”

She added that the use of drones has shown promising results in firefighting, leading her to include language in the FAA legislation to facilitate safer and more effective drone operations.

Improving regulations for drone usage in wildfire efforts

The legislation from the House FAA, inspired by bills introduced by Titus and Transportation and Infrastructure Aviation Subcommittee Chair Garret Graves, aims to enable the use of commercial drones in “beyond visual line of sight operations,” or BVLOS.

This will involve the FAA collaborating with the Forest Service to identify public areas where drones can operate safely without the operator having visual contact.

The Senate bill follows a similar course, pushing the FAA to instigate rule-making for commercial BVLOS operations and also earmarking drone test ranges for priority research areas.

The future of drones in the fight against wildfires

There are further issues beyond the FAA reauthorisation bill that advocates hope Congress and agencies will address.

These include countering Chinese dominance in the drone industry and better coordination between agencies to manage the complexities of drones and wildfires.

The use of drones in wildfire management is already in practice at the state and local levels.

This technology is employed to capture thermal images of the landscape and in some cases, carry out prescribed burns in remote areas.

As technology evolves, the need to resolve certain regulatory challenges becomes more evident.

For instance, current rules requiring drone operators to maintain visual contact with their drones at all times can be restrictive, especially in vast, remote wildfire areas.

IFSJ Comment

This demonstrates how technological advancement in drone usage can provide pivotal support in tackling wildfires.

It highlights the ongoing commitment of lawmakers to leverage technology in mitigating the risk and impact of wildfires.

About the FAA

The Federal Aviation Administration is the governing body responsible for all civil aviation in the United States. Its duties range from air traffic control, certifying personnel and aircraft, and investigating accidents. The FAA is also responsible for installing and maintaining air navigation facilities. The agency has been involved in the development and implementation of drone technologies, regulations, and policies.

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