OLYMPIA , Wash.-- The Federal Aviation Administration approved the use of drones for the fight against wildfires burning across the state of Washington in July.
A drone, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, is much too small to drop water, but it is the perfect size to fly over a fire where manned aircraft can not. It could give firefighters on the ground a better perspective of how big the fire is and the best way to access it.
The Washington Department of Natural Resources does not own its own drone, but said it would use Boeing’s “Scaneagle” built by Insitu. The Scaneagle is about four feet long with a 10-foot wingspan, weighing about 40 pounds. The important feature is the cameras on-board which can safely provide firefighters real-time images of the fire they are fighting. Wind and smoke can ground other aircraft.
Washington DNR had not yet decided whether it would use an UAV on the fires burning Wednesday, but could request one at any time. Once requested, the DNR could have it in the air in about five to eight hours.