Las Vegas, Nev. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) sent a letter to Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Steve Dickson, U.S. Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen and Bureau of Land Management Deputy Director William Perry Pendley requesting an update on interagency efforts to inform the public about the dangers of flying drones near active wildfires. Drone incursions in the airspace surrounding wildfires can cause aerial firefighting tools to be grounded, limiting the ability of firefighters to quickly respond to rapidly growing fires, or other safety concerns within the airspace.
“I write to you today to request an update on interagency efforts to inform the public about the dangers of flying Unmanned Aerial Systems (drones) near a wildfire,” Senator Cortez Masto wrote. “As you are well aware, any such drone incursion within this restricted airspace requires the grounding of all aerial firefighting tools. In fact, that is exactly what happened in my home state of Nevada last month, as multiple unauthorized drones forced fire crews to halt aerial operations for up to an hour, withholding valuable time and resources from suppression efforts to combat the Poeville Fire.”
“In response to this situation, as well as others that take place throughout the country, I am calling on you and your agencies to ensure that a robust safety and educational campaign is taking place, and expanded where possible, in order to prevent future interference,” Senator Cortez Masto continued. “Unfortunately, the ability to track and catch those acting in an unsafe way is still a challenge…I would appreciate a review of drone safety regulations and enforcement protocols that are being coordinated amongst your agencies to ensure that we are making progress toward a safer airspace for the brave individuals who are fighting our all-too-frequent wildfires.”
A full copy of the letter can be found HERE.
In March, Senator Cortez Masto introduced the Aerial Incursion Repercussion (AIR) Safety Act to study effects of drone incursions on wildfire suppression efforts and determine the amount of time and money firefighters waste combatting these occurrences each year. In addition, aspects of the Senator’s Safe DRONE Act and Drone Safety Enhancement Act – bills to increase the timeliness of drone safety regulations, authorize federal funding for the “Know Before You Fly” public awareness campaign and require greater inter-agency coordination on drone safety – were included in the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018.