New Legislation a ‘Critical Step’ Forward in UAS for Firefighting

Posted by Betsy Lillian on June 29, 2015 No Comments
Categories : Public Safety

Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.-09, and Congressman Duncan Hunter, R-Calif.-50, have introduced bipartisan legislation to leverage unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) for Arizona firefighters.

The Protecting Firefighters and Promoting Innovation Act, H.R.2909, establishes an interagency working group to develop best practices for integrating UAS technologies into wildland firefighting efforts.

According to a release from Sinema, UAS can complement existing firefighting capabilities by improving coordination through real-time updates, delivering countermeasures in remote and inaccessible areas, and reducing the exposure and risk to first responders.

“Arizonans are too familiar with the devastating effects wildfires have on our communities,” says Sinema. “Two years ago, the Yarnell Hill Fire claimed the lives of 19 Arizona hotshots. These heroes put everything on the line to protect our neighbors and families, and it’s our responsibility to do everything we can to prevent future tragedies.”

The working group will be led by the administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of the Interior and will include representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, NASA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Guard.

The group will also consult with outside stakeholders and experts to ensure that any proposal is fiscally responsible, leverages existing federal resources where applicable, protects civil liberties, and includes state and local agencies in the process.

“Integrating new technology can lower the risks for Arizona first responders and help fight wildfires faster and more effectively,” comments Mary Dalton, president of the Arizona Fire District Association. “We applaud Congresswoman Sinema for her leadership in bringing both parties together around this common-sense solution.”

Brian Wynne, president and CEO of the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), adds, “Many first responders are realizing the potential of UAS technologies – including applications that may support battling the more than 60,000 wildland fires in the U.S. each year. This legislation is a critical step toward allowing UAS to be used as an essential tool in these all too common occurrences.”

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