Swan Lake Fire Operational Update – September 3, 2019 10:00 PM

Unmanned aircraft system (UAS) drones are being used on various areas of the Swan Lake fire. Drones are operated by pilot operators that hold and maintain two Remote Pilot Certification cards from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the agency in which they are employed. The fire incident orders the drone and pilot, and assigns them to the incident’s Air Operations Group. All UAS missions on the fire are coordinated through the incident Air Attack Supervisor.

The Air Attack Supervisor coordinates multiple air resources on the fire including lead planes, air tankers, helicopters, smokejumpers, parachuted cargo, and drones. The Air Attack Supervisor assigns and coordinates the appropriate altitude, location, and time frames to complete missions for the different aircraft working within the incident’s air space to prevent conflicts. If a drone were to collide with other firefighting aircraft, a serious, even fatal, accident could occur. Unauthorized drones flying within a fire incident are putting other people’s lives in danger.

Drones being used on the Swan Lake Fire are collecting fire data to assist fire managers on how to manage and suppress the fire, while also increasing firefighter’s situation awareness. Drones have also been used to scout areas, determine access, mapping, infrared imagery, monitoring fire behavior, and firing operations. When appropriate, the drones are being used to video areas of the fire to be shared with the public.

Yesterday, on the south flank of the fire, an undetected hot spot outside the fire perimeter was discovered by a drone and firefighters were able to secure and suppress.

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