Disassembled UAS.

Drone used to map Parker 2 Fire

Alturas, Calif. – The Federal Aviation Administration recently granted permission for the Department of the Interior to fly a fixed-wing unmanned aircraft system (UAS) over an active wildfire.

The UAS, colloquially known as a drone, was operated by a Department of the Interior pilot over the Parker 2 Fire in the Modoc National Forest.

Typically, drones are not allowed to fly over or around wildfires. But in a historical first, the FAA allowed a drone to fly over a fire beyond the visual line of sight of the pilot, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

With the special permission, the drone flew over 19 miles and covered more than 500 acres flying in a pre-programmed grid pattern.

A high-resolution infrared camera took images of the ground below as the UAS flew.

The still images were later digitally joined together to create a high-resolution, three-dimensional map of the land.

In just over 30 minutes, the drone flight was able to accomplish what would have taken a ground crew of 20 firefighters multiple operational periods to complete, the USFS said.

While the Department of the Interior has used UAS technology to monitor wildlife and conduct geological and geophysical surveys, the tool is now available to assist during wildfires thanks to firefighter and UAS the pilot of the drone, Steven Stroud.

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