National Park Service Announces It’s Illegal to Fly Drones Over Wildfires

by Matthew Memrick
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The National Park Service reminded people that drones and wildfires do not mix, saying their use is illegal in photographing recent California fires.

Fox 26 reported that the agency issued the reminder in a report about the KNP Complex Fire in Tulare County. Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks have suffered burns to 67,708 acres. On late Monday, California fire officials reported only 11 percent containment of the fire.

Park Service officials cited the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, 43 CFR 9212.1(f) to make a point.

“It is illegal to resist or interfere with the efforts of firefighter(s) to extinguish a fire,” said the Park Service via InciWeb. “Doing so can result in a significant fine and/or a mandatory court appearance. So, be smart and just don’t fly your drone anywhere near a wildfire.”

The KNP Complex Fire began on Sept. 10 after lightning struck Tulare County. The TV station reported that over 1,300 emergency personnel were on the scene battling the fire.

For Public, Drones A No-No In Wildfires

Since 2014, government officials designated national parks as “no drone” zones with fines and penalties for violators. Bummer because that agency oversees some 417 parks, 23 trails, and 60 rivers.

These flying machines have the potential to start fires. And I’m not just talking about the ones with frickin’ lazer beams. Overheated motors or batteries can turn a dry, grassy field into an instant fire. 

Some drones have dropped fire igniters, called “dragon eggs,” in areas.

These balls contain potassium permanganate and self-ignite. They are used to start controlled fires.

On two occasions in 2018, drones started fires in Oregon and Arizona.

The website Droneblog also mentioned that racing drones start most drone fires. These models have exposed motors and batteries. The website says overheated or sparking drones have more chances to start fires when they are less contained. Finally, racing drones land and come in direct contact with the ground. Most drones have landing gear. 

Some Can Use Drones In Parks

Yeah, that’s the National Park Service officials. Not an average joe.

Only firefighters should use these crewless aircraft for good. In February, CNet Magazine reported that Google wanted to test a drone for “fire monitoring and firefighting,” but the Federal Aviation Administration said no to that. 

According to DroneU, a special permit for park drone use is the best way to go. However, this permit only allows the drone user access for search and rescue, research, and fire safety. The drone training website said that getting that permit is a rarity.  

However, on Oct. 1, some folks got permits.

Fly a drone without a permit and get caught? National Park Service officials could take your toy home for their kids. Also, you could go to jail for six months and get a $5,000 fine.

Don’t feel bad, drone peeps. Major airports have had a three-mile radius ban for sometime too.

Outsider.com