Using Drones and Technology to Combat Fires

A member of a fire crew holds a quadcopter drone deployed near a recent wildfire. Photo: National Park Service.

To combat the destruction of wildland fires, rangers at Grand Canyon National Park are using unmanned air systems, or drones, to help firefighters safely scout fires. The drones can be used to scout locations for fire lines to slow or cut off a wildfire’s progress.  All of the information comes back to the point of command, so decisions can be made in real time about fighting the fire safely and effectively.

Justin Jager, Interagency Aviation Officer for Grand Canyon National Park and the Kaibab and Coconino National Forests said the drones are used in conjunction with traditional methods. Operators use the devices to scout fire lines or communicate information to other personnel in the area.  

Operators using drone to locate potential fire lines.  Photo: National Park Service. 

Jager says drones will continue to be a valuable tool, and one that operators and managers at Grand Canyon National Park and the neighboring Kaibab and Coconino National Forests are working to develop more fully. Operations in search and rescue, firefighting and biological studies are being used to create standard operating procedures for land management agencies nationwide.

The Cohesive Strategy encourages the development and use of technology to improve the safety and effectiveness of firefighting resources. 

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