The Small UAV Coalition is reminding the public that although small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can be a helpful tool for firefighting and rescue missions, they should be used only in coordination with the proper authorities.
According to the coalition, local fire departments in states such as Connecticut, Maryland, Ohio and California are exploring how the real-time information drones provide can reduce risk to firefighters and first responders more broadly.
In many cases, the group says, drones are safer and less expensive to operate than manned aircraft or helicopters. Nevertheless, the Small UAV Coalition recognizes that reckless and bad operators do exist and believes that those who endanger first responders should be prosecuted under existing laws, as flights that are not coordinated with officials pose a risk of collision with manned aircraft and delay efforts to put out fires.
The coalition notes that several of its members offer solutions to prevent drones from unintentionally restricted airspace, including airspace restricted temporarily during forest fires:
- Airmap‘s airspace information map, which is freely available to consumers on the Web today, notifies users of temporary flight restrictions (including wildfires); airport airspace; and other cautions such as power plants, heliports and schools.
- Skyward‘s cloud-based service connects drone operators to the tools such as a real-time air chart of where they can fly, flight planning and logging, and personnel and fleet management.
- Verifly partners with pilots, manufacturers, regulators, insurers and privacy advocates to develop built-in compliance technology such as flight and activity restrictions and a global identification registry.
Finally, in the future, UAV traffic management systems will increase coordination and reduce the risk of collision or interference with public-sector emergency manned operations, says the Small UAV Coalition.
However, drone operators should, at all times, obey Federal Aviation Administration guidance and, more importantly, use common sense about where to fly, says the group, which also notes the Know Before You Fly drone safety campaign.
Michael Drobac, executive director of the coalition, adds, “While we must be good stewards of this technology, we also hope lawmakers will resist the urge to write redundant and often contradictory laws that will prevent Americans from realizing its many benefits.”