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Drones hampering firefighting efforts at wildfires across the US… again!

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Fire department chiefs around the United States are calling for drone pilots to stay away from wildfires.

As summer heat ups, wildfires become more frequent. Some drone pilots obviously find the opportunity to observe fires from above and capture unique videos and images simply irresistible. The problem is – drones are a major hindrance for firefighters. Fire crews have been reluctant to fly their helicopters or aircraft into areas where they know drones to be present, due to the risk that one of the drones collides with them.

Speaking to KUSI News San Diego, California Fire Captain Issac Sanchez said aircraft were an important part of a firefighter’s arsenal: “Airtankers with come in and make their drops. They will go away to reload… and at that point the helicopters will move in. And it’s repeated until the incident is over.”

If drones collide with aircraft they have the possibility of getting caught in the rotor, smashing a window or otherwise causing major damage. Sanchez emphasized that drone’s could even potentially bring “a huge, ten-thousand pound helicopter down”.  In 2016, the U.S. Forest service reported that unauthorized drone caused firefighting aircraft to ground at least 13 times, meaning fires were potentially burning much longer than they otherwise would.

What penalities to rogue drone pilots face?

If someone is caught flying their drone in a firefighting zone, the maximum fine they face is $25,000. If any of your friends try to show you video they’ve shot of a wildfire from directly above – pass on to them that they may be endangering people’s lives.

The them of people being idiots with their drones is hardly something new. As more people get their hands on this amazing technology, it stands to reason that a decent portion of them will use the drone in inappropriate ways. In 2015, we wrote this story about how many wildfires had hit the US that summer and how, surprise surprise, people using drones hindered firefighting efforts.

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