Oregon Legislators to Feds: More UAS Need to be Fighting Wildfires

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden and U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio are asking federal officials what’s being done to deploy more unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to fight wildfires raging throughout Oregon and the west.

As ranking member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, DeFazio last year authored legislation that directed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Department of the Interior (DOI) and Department of Agriculture to expedite the safe use of drones to support firefighting operations. The legislation was passed into law as part of the FAA Extension Act of 2016.

The letter from the two Oregon lawmakers comes in the wake of their meetings last weekend in Oregon with emergency responders battling wildfires around the state. According to the legislators, wildfires so far this year have ripped through more than 7.65 million acres in Oregon and the west.

“These tragic yet foreseeable events make it necessary to explore all ways to better fight wildfires,” Wyden and DeFazio wrote in their letter to Michael Huerta, administrator for the FAA; Ryan Zinke, DOI secretary; and Forest Service Chief Tony Tooke. “Unmanned aerial systems have the potential to help this effort significantly.”

Wyden and DeFazio noted that drones have proven able to assess in real time the seriousness of wildfire damage, gather essential information for firefighters and first responders, and improve safety by identifying additional hazards, as well as any infrastructure, property or wildlife in the path of a fast-moving fire.

A copy of the letter can be read here.

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