USA – Drones are staying away from Montana fires – so far, but the Department of the Interior has reported 19 public drone incursions into firefighting efforts nationwide.
Drones shut down aerial fighting 15 times in the West this year.
Drones can interfere with firefighting aircraft, and they can’t be detected except by sight, which is hard given the size of most drones.
Pilots don’t have any way to communicate with hobbyist drones, either, unlike the radio communication that coordinates other air traffic. This increases the odds a drone will collide with an airplane, helicopter or smokejumper, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
Some incidents this year:
►Air tankers were held back until a drone spotted over the fire retardant line could be removed from the Chicoma Fire near Española, N.M., in April.
►A drone delayed bucket drops on the Bocco Fire near Wolcott, Colo., in June.
►Helicopters were grounded after a drone was spotted over the Constantia Fire near Doyle, Calif.
►Helicopters had to clear out from the Kings Landing Fire in Mason County, Wash., in July until a news station’s drone was gone. The drone was within a quarter mile of retardant drops.
►A pilot saw a drone at eye level as he did bucket work on the Rattlesnake Fire in Idaho in July. The pilot had to withdraw from the fire until the drone was gone.
Federal regulations make it illegal to interfere with the efforts of firefighters to extinguish a fire.
In 2017, the DOI counted 36 drone incursions, in 2016 it was 41, in 2015 it was 25 and 2014 had 16 incursions.