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Drones on wild land fires

ArrUnTuS

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Normally, large fires requiring both manned and unmanned aircraft, in addition to having command control supervision, can "communicate" with each other as they have done all their lives. By using transponders also in drones. Prices, sizes and weight have decreased enough to make it a feasible option. Manned aircraft can know where drones are located in the same way as other manned aircraft so safety is greatly enhanced.

The transponder, I believe, is the easiest and safest way for both types of aircraft to work in the same area safely.
 
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BigAl07

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As far as UAV and other AC on the fire, Its quite simple, UAVs don't fly during air ops. Since the UAV operator will be with a visual observer, like a lookout, they will know when air ops in going on. Staying clear of manned aircraft is already a requirement for part 107 pilots.

Well hopefully some decisions or rule making gets done soon to allow us to employ the latest technology in wild land fires this year.

We have flown in close proximity with Manned aircraft in a coordinated SAR mission a few times now. The key point is "Coordinated" and we were responding with an accredited agency.

Normally, large fires requiring both manned and unmanned aircraft, in addition to having command control supervision, can "communicate" with each other as they have done all their lives. By using transponders also in drones. Prices, sizes and weight have decreased enough to make it a feasible option. Manned aircraft can know where drones are located in the same way as other manned aircraft so safety is greatly enhanced.

The transponder, I believe, is the easiest and safest way for both types of aircraft to work in the same area safely.

There are a few micro Transponders being tested around the country right now. Hopefully they will be enough to cover the gap and allow for SAFE integration with manned aviation in close proximity when working in the Public Safety sector of our industry.
 
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Firedrone

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I think @BigAl07 is right. When UAVs fly in conjunction with manned aircraft, they need to be controlled in a similar way as the manned aircraft and me in contact with the IC and all potential manned aircraft. The prospect of having transponders on UAVs could of course make the whole operation safer.
 
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BigAl07

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I think @BigAl07 is right. When UAVs fly in conjunction with manned aircraft, they need to be controlled in a similar way as the manned aircraft and me in contact with the IC and all potential manned aircraft.

We had an Air Boss on hand and he coordinated our every action. I had a radio operator by my side for all flights and he was in constant contact with the Air Boss and the manned air assets. It was almost like our own mini ATC right there in the middle of the wilderness.
 
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Firedrone

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We had an Air Boss on hand and he coordinated our every action. I had a radio operator by my side for all flights and he was in constant contact with the Air Boss and the manned air assets. It was almost like our own mini ATC right there in the middle of the wilderness.
Yep. I reckon thats the way to do it!
 

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its so good to hear from folks who have experience in this area.
Would you mind sharing your experience? Like what kind of UAS was used and what lessons learned. What was the mission? and what problems were encountered.
 
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BigAl07

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its so good to hear from folks who have experience in this area.
Would you mind sharing your experience? Like what kind of UAS was used and what lessons learned. What was the mission? and what problems were encountered.

I'll try to give my 2 cents.

We've flown SAR and in support of FD in various capacities over the last few years. We have flown DIY, Blade brand, Yuuneec, but now we are flying DJI birds. Phantom3S, Phantom3Pro, Inspire 1V2, and now Mavics.
 

Jammer

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For my two cents worth the best help you can give fire fighters with a UAV is a wide area mapping service BEFORE the fire season.

We map large fire prone areas in the lead up to the season so access trails and current fuel state can be assessed.

There are lots more ways we can help in the future but safe and "measured" integration is always the way with EMS.
 

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Jammer,, Do do you use a mapping App? Do you map out for WF urban interface? We have areas in our district that should be mapped out, but cover a large area.
safe and "measured" integration, that is a good line, I'll have to remember that.
 
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Jammer, I would love to hear more of your ideas on more ways we could help the Fire districts. This is all new for us in NC Wash, or for the whole state.
Our Sen Cantwell has proposed legislation to require the FS to use GPS in fire apparatuses, which I have wondered for years why if the trucking industry can track its rigs why not fire trucks. Also in the bill would be to use UAVS on fires. Hopefully this can move along the "measured" integration.
 
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BigA107. In your SAR missions, are you using just FPV or videos to check out areas?.
What kind of ground cover are you searching in?
 

BigAl07

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BigA107. In your SAR missions, are you using just FPV or videos to check out areas?.
What kind of ground cover are you searching in?

We are using FPV (streaming to large formation monitors when possible) as well as recording the flight for indepth review after the flight. While the "LIVE Video" is invaluable just in case, you miss so much while flying that is picked up later in post review.

I'm flying in Western NC in urban areas as well as National Forest and NPS land. So from wide open fields to heavy cover forests and everything in between. Unfortunately we don't have thermal ability yet so RGB imaging is all we have.
 

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I am with a fire department in Colorado, and leading the UAS program there. We started using drones for training sessions, recording video for FF training feedback. Then when folks saw how useful the aerial perspective was, I say 'well you know we could....'. That got the program moving forward. Now we use it for aerial recon in structure, wildland, and SAR missions. Along with continued training video/enhancements.

In June 2017 myself and two other FF from neighboring departments flew UAS aerial recon on wildires in NM. Great experience, a Type 3 incident gave a lot of freedom to experiment and help Operations see what was useful, or not. We wrote a lessons-learned paper.

UAS Notes & Lessons from the June 2017 Luera TREX

In Sept I deployed to wildfires in OR and worked for the Alaska Type 1 team there. They were very dialed in with operating UAS for the entire two week assignment. From the get go they had processes to get approval from agency reps, coordinate with Air Ops and Air Attack. They flew every day, multiple missions. After morning briefing they tied in with Operations and with three UAS teams, they coordinated with the Divisions to plan their missions. Since it was all in a TFR they also got approval for BVLOS. Used FLIR quite a bit. All in a a very well managed UAS operation, very encouraging to see it in action.

I had a chance to talk with these Alaska folks about their SOP/TTPs, etc. They have more UAS flight hours than all of the combined Type 1 and 2 teams in the lower 48. I've been to Alaska for wildfire assignments and yes, they do things a little different there. Its Alaska! The conservative agencies in the lower 48 are just not ready for widespread UAS implementation at this point because of inexperience and fear of blowback because of lack of solid policy and procedures, depending on which agency is managing a wildfire/incident. There are moves to change this but the Feds move slowly.
 

ArrUnTuS

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I am with a fire department in Colorado, and leading the UAS program there. We started using drones for training sessions, recording video for FF training feedback. Then when folks saw how useful the aerial perspective was, I say 'well you know we could....'. That got the program moving forward. Now we use it for aerial recon in structure, wildland, and SAR missions. Along with continued training video/enhancements.

In June 2017 myself and two other FF from neighboring departments flew UAS aerial recon on wildires in NM. Great experience, a Type 3 incident gave a lot of freedom to experiment and help Operations see what was useful, or not. We wrote a lessons-learned paper.

UAS Notes & Lessons from the June 2017 Luera TREX

In Sept I deployed to wildfires in OR and worked for the Alaska Type 1 team there. They were very dialed in with operating UAS for the entire two week assignment. From the get go they had processes to get approval from agency reps, coordinate with Air Ops and Air Attack. They flew every day, multiple missions. After morning briefing they tied in with Operations and with three UAS teams, they coordinated with the Divisions to plan their missions. Since it was all in a TFR they also got approval for BVLOS. Used FLIR quite a bit. All in a a very well managed UAS operation, very encouraging to see it in action.

I had a chance to talk with these Alaska folks about their SOP/TTPs, etc. They have more UAS flight hours than all of the combined Type 1 and 2 teams in the lower 48. I've been to Alaska for wildfire assignments and yes, they do things a little different there. Its Alaska! The conservative agencies in the lower 48 are just not ready for widespread UAS implementation at this point because of inexperience and fear of blowback because of lack of solid policy and procedures, depending on which agency is managing a wildfire/incident. There are moves to change this but the Feds move slowly.


Very good report, I liked it very much. Those details of how to organize everything are worth their weight in gold. Whoever is really interested in this has a great source of information in that report. Good job :)
 
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rvrrat14

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I did have a meeting, as earlier mentioned, with my local PD/FD and we are moving ahead. Things move slowly, as you all know.

We have wild land and structure firefighters/stations. We are looking at visiting some nearby agencies already engaged in drone use. The PD/FD chiefs are in discussion with them now. Sit downs are planned. Good info ‘gleamable’ from them.

Our local helo’s that assist our PD/FD use comms on their freqs, so we’re covered there. But still feel air comms for general use are needed, as our helo’s swap out sometimes within the company/provider.

Great interest in PD/FD! Regional meetings (FD) are all buzzing about drones. Local FD teams are all saying they need air assets! My son, 18, recently followed in his Grandfather (chief) and Father’s (Asst. Chief) footsteps and became 3rd Gen firefighter. So there’s my inside track! LOL.

I’m sure as things ‘gel’ a little more, I’ll have lots of questions. We have a large river that runs through the county and SAR on the river is a huge thing!
THANKS!
 

NomadicMichael

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I am with a fire department in Colorado, and leading the UAS program there. We started using drones for training sessions, recording video for FF training feedback. Then when folks saw how useful the aerial perspective was, I say 'well you know we could....'. That got the program moving forward. Now we use it for aerial recon in structure, wildland, and SAR missions. Along with continued training video/enhancements.

In June 2017 myself and two other FF from neighboring departments flew UAS aerial recon on wildires in NM. Great experience, a Type 3 incident gave a lot of freedom to experiment and help Operations see what was useful, or not. We wrote a lessons-learned paper.

UAS Notes & Lessons from the June 2017 Luera TREX

In Sept I deployed to wildfires in OR and worked for the Alaska Type 1 team there. They were very dialed in with operating UAS for the entire two week assignment. From the get go they had processes to get approval from agency reps, coordinate with Air Ops and Air Attack. They flew every day, multiple missions. After morning briefing they tied in with Operations and with three UAS teams, they coordinated with the Divisions to plan their missions. Since it was all in a TFR they also got approval for BVLOS. Used FLIR quite a bit. All in a a very well managed UAS operation, very encouraging to see it in action.

I had a chance to talk with these Alaska folks about their SOP/TTPs, etc. They have more UAS flight hours than all of the combined Type 1 and 2 teams in the lower 48. I've been to Alaska for wildfire assignments and yes, they do things a little different there. Its Alaska! The conservative agencies in the lower 48 are just not ready for widespread UAS implementation at this point because of inexperience and fear of blowback because of lack of solid policy and procedures, depending on which agency is managing a wildfire/incident. There are moves to change this but the Feds move slowly.

I'm in SW Colorado working for a volunteer fire department with a Mavic Pro 2 Enterprise Dual drone (with thermal camera). It would be great to better understand how you are live streaming back to command.

Thx!
 

Mavic Mac

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@NomadicMichael
Welcome to the forums - a lot of good info here. Also, the search function (magnifying glass icon upper right) is a great way to find answers to many of the questions .
 
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R.Perry

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Since California has so many fires going right, in my area I've flying for the local CDF folks because all the aircraft have been assigned to the larger fires. It is a real mess, and we just don't have enough hotshots or regular fire crews. Thank goodness the wind has been light, but that can change quickly and the thermals created around these fires play are tough on the drones. Desperately need more Mavic and Phantom 4 batteries.
 

BigAl07

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I think @BigAl07 is right. When UAVs fly in conjunction with manned aircraft, they need to be controlled in a similar way as the manned aircraft and me in contact with the IC and all potential manned aircraft. The prospect of having transponders on UAVs could of course make the whole operation safer.


Just a quick update on this specific aspect of Manned and UnManned aircraft in the same vicinity during some type of Incident (Fire, Rescue, LEO etc). Late last year we had a massive search in our area for a missing man with Dementia who disappeared on the Blue Ridge Parkway (NPS land which is a No-Go for UAS). This was a local, State and Federal event and for the first time in the history of the NPS they allowed a local Incident Management Team actually run the Incident. It was our largest "Locally Ran" event in the history of our Org. It was HUGE!

Anyway at one point we had a manned Helo and ~several different UAS on our search in "fairly" close proximity. The search area was in "Grids" and we kept UAS on one side of the grid area and the HELO had full access to the other half with NO overlap. Even though we had plenty of separation we still had to manage all aircraft because the Helo was "called" into other grids to provide "Eyes On" searches when something was spotted etc.

Day #1 I was flying one of the UAS and heading up a team of UAS from OakRidge Tn. and the head of our District of the NPS was our Air Boss.
Day #2 I was the Air Boss tasked with maintaining aircraft separation and guiding each asset to the correct area etc. and the head of our District of the NPS was in the Helo. Talk about a RUSH to be part of that search.
 
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