Drones Helping to Fight Wildfires in California



In the past several years, drones have become not only more popular, but more versatile as well. Starting off for military use or as fun hobbies, drone technology has evolved drastically.

From using drones for deliveries to utilizing their unique photography abilities, people have continuously found more uses for drones. In the near future, miniature drones may even help replace the disappearing honeybees, which pollinate most of the plants humans depend on. While bees can only fly 15 miles per hour, robotic drones could theoretically pollinate huge areas in a short amount of time.

While drones aren’t replacing bees just yet, there are currently more than 700,000 drones already registered with the FAA. And now, drones are taking on an important new role: helping California firefighters battle the horrific wildfires that have scorched the state this summer.

California residents have been subjected to immense wildfires over the past few months. And in previous years, firefighters had to use helicopters to even get limited information to see through the smoke caused by the fires. But now, a California Air National Guard aircraft that has infrared abilities can help firefighters spot the start of the fire and help determine the best ways to put it out.

In this way, the firefighting drones could literally save lives.

“For firefighting, it’s a game changer, no doubt. And it’s only going to get better,” said Damian Guilliani, situation unit leader on California Interagency Incident Management Team 4. “The technology… is absolutely amazing. Not only can they see live video, but you can actually see at 25,000 feet when they shoot down on the fire line, you can actually see people walking around and see fire trucks through infrared.”

Despite California facing wildfires before, a recent fire made history. The Ferguson fire was the first fire that incident commanders have been able to give accurate and helpful information to firefighters from high above the affected area.

For about five years now, California firefighters have been working with drone technology to not only make their jobs easier, but to help protect residents better. Over the past five years, the 163rd Reconnaissance Wing — the drone used to fly above wildfires — has helped battle more than 20 wildfires.

When it comes to wildfires, time is of the utmost importance. Any delay in stopping the fire’s spred can cost lives, homes, and billions in economic costs. Over the past few months, residents have had to evacuate and leave their homes behind due to the wildfires. And in 2016 alone, 5.3% of homeowners had to file an insurance claim, according to ISO. So wildfires don’t only damage the wilderness throughout California, but property as well.

Due to the perilous landscape that can be found throughout the region, many fires are too difficult to reach. But with today’s drone technology, firefighters can cut the fire off before it reaches too far and decide the best way to approach the fires. Drone technology is truly changing the way wildfires are approached and can help prevent disasters in the future.

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