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Private drone banned from flying over Sand Fire

A private drone that recorded footage of the Sand Fire burning in the Sierra foothills caused some controversy after it put crews in danger. But even as firefighters criticize its use in this case, they think the technology could actually help them in the near future.
A private drone recorded footage of the Sand Fire burning in the Sierra foothills east of Sacramento and it caused some controversy. But even as firefighters criticize its use in this case, they think the technology could actually help them in the near future.

Fire officials said the drone operator put fire crews and their equipment in danger, but that's not to say they're not experimenting with using drones in firefighting, as they can go where equipment is unable to go.

"I have a lot of interest in historical pieces throughout this county and around." drone operator said.

The drone operator told ABC7 News he wants to remain anonymous due to the heated reaction to his dramatic drone video.

Fire officials say they almost had to cancel air drops because of the unauthorized flying object and they demanded the pilot get out, and stay out, of restricted airspace.

"The air tankers, they come in awful low, we had a bird strike, a plane the other day, and that plane had to be grounded and have a little bit of maintenance,' Cal Fire spokesperson Ron Oatman said.

There are those risks but, firefighters can and have started using drones themselves in certain situations. Those equipped with infrared capability can fly in thick smoke, where manned helicopters can't.

They can also keep people out of risky situations and provide real-time information to firefighters on the ground.

Managers with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service say for the most part, the technology has out-paced the agencies' comfort zone and pocketbooks.

The drone operator in this case was certainly not trying to sabotage the firefight, rather he wanted to showcase the work firefighters do.

"The efforts that our firefighters do, they put their lives on the line," drone operator said

He's not the first to stir up authorities with a drone. In Seattle, the FAA is looking into a recent incident in which someone launched a drone out of their hotel room window and sent it to circle the Space Needle.

There are rules in place for how and when drones can fly, but they haven't caught up with the new popularity in drone use. The FAA is working on new safety guidelines, but it could be a couple of years before it could take effect.
Related Topics:
technology drones FAA fire brush fire california Sacramento
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