Responsible piloting

July 10, 2017

At DroneUp, we want to see as many people as possible flying their drones and enjoying them. We like to keep the tone here light and fun, but sometimes it’s important to get serious. One weekend in June, at the Lizard Fire in Arizona, the aerial suppression efforts over this 10,500-acre fire were called off for four hours, because an unauthorized drone was in the airspace. This may seem like a small thing, but it substantially increases the danger for firefighters and for the public… not to mention a $25,000 fine and possible jail time.

How can you avoid those penalties?

1. Use DroneUp whenever you fly your drone. The map will show nearby areas of restricted flight, and when you go DroneUp, the app will show you the details of no-fly zones and other drones nearby.

2. Make sure you have good visibility. Flying over a fire means you’re flying in smoke. And flying in smoke means that it’s hard for you to see other aircraft, and it’s hard for other aircraft to see you. That’s just not safe for anybody.

3. Understand flight regulations and how they apply to your activity. Public Information Officer Michelle Fidler advises “Drone operators need to be aware that the U.S. Forest Service generally requests Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on all fires when the Forest Service has an aircraft responding.”  Did you know that DroneUp offers free training related to safely operating drones?

I was surprised when I first read this article. From the headline, I wondered “Is this just going to be paranoia?”  Then I learned that these fire suppression aircraft aren’t designed to land with a full load (12 tons) of chemical retardant, so being called out of the sky increases the danger to the air crews. I read that with reduced visibility due to smoke, the air crews might not be able to see a little drone, but that little drone could cause the airplane to crash. Into the wildfire. Not to mention the waste of hours that could be much better used fighting the fire to keep nearby people and animals safe!

So yes, this drone pilot endangered the lives of around 20 air crews and the ground crew, plus the lives of those living and working nearby. I’m sure they would feel absolutely terrible if their drone flight had caused plane crashes or other loss of life. Don’t let that drone pilot be you. Keep up to date with safety regulations, check out nearby no-fly zones in your app, and go DroneUp safely.