The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is reminding drone operators that state laws restrict unmanned aircraft use at the scenes of wildfires.
Michigan’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Act prohibits an individual from knowingly or intentionally operating a drone or other unmanned aircraft in a manner that interferes with the official duties of firefighters, police, paramedics or search-and-rescue personnel, according to an announcement from the DNR.
“When a drone is in the air at a wildfire, it poses a safety hazard to our pilots and firefighters – which could require us to ground our spotter planes and fire-suppression aircraft,” says Kevin Jacobs, DNR’s aviation manager.
“We are trying actively to educate operators of these types of aircraft – hoping they will understand and respect the potential hazards involved and keep their aircraft away from wildfires,” adds John Pepin, DNR’s deputy public information officer. “We anticipate operators will see the obvious value in this restriction. Beyond that, it’s illegal to fly this type of craft in interference with fire suppression activities.”
Michigan is joining other states, including neighboring Wisconsin, in working toward a goal of an area free of non-emergency aircraft, including drones and other unmanned aircraft systems, within a five-mile radius of wildfires.
“Voluntary compliance with this request by operators would ensure safer skies for our dedicated fire pilots,” Pepin says. “We all need the DNR fire pilots to be safe to help keep our lives, property and resources safe.”