National Guard working with local fire and police to train drone pilots

ASHLAND, Ore.– The National Guard is working with local and state agencies to train pilots to fly unmanned aerial systems.

Organizers hope the program will allow pilots to use their skills to help law enforcement and fire agencies in our region.

Staff Sergeant Taham Khosrabadi is the program manager for the Small Unmanned Aerial Systems Program for the Oregon Army National Guard.

He returned from serving in Somalia just before the Almeda Fire in 2020 and that’s what inspired him to get involved.

Khosrabadi said, “I went to my unit, tried being able to utilize our drones to support ems. We were told we weren’t allowed to, that there wasn’t any standards and training. There was just a lot of red tape at that moment.”

He said that motivated him to find ways to fix those issues for future natural disasters, so he got involved with the local Small Unmanned Aerial Systems Program.

But even four years later, Khosrabadi said there are still issues when it comes to collaborating between local agencies and that’s where workshops like this one come into play.

Sergeant Drew Burke said, “it gives us an opportunity to look at forest fires, look at destruction, be able to help the community, collaborate with the civilian population as in fire, forestry police officers.”

Representatives from ODF, the City of Ashland and many others were in attendance at the workshop.

Some of the tools that can be equipped to drones allow the pilot to map out the damage from fires in 3D, or use an infrared sensor to detect hot spots in an active fire.

The workshops also include presentations from pilots like Jeff Pricher, who is also the fire chief for the Scappoose Rural Fire District north of Portland.

Pricher said, “the big challenges that we’re having right now is getting people trained and to a level where the crewed aircraft can fly harmoniously with the un-crewed aircraft, but we can’t do that until we have good training.”

Pricher is part of multiple national UAS organizations and he says drones are becoming more and more useful every day.

“The faster we can get these tools into the hands of our public safety providers, we’re going to have actionable intelligence that the decision makers and our elected officials will be able to utilize during disasters,” Pricher said.

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NBC5 News reporter Derek Strom is from Renton, Washington. He recently graduated from the Edward R. Murrow College of Communications at Washington State University with a degree in Broadcast News and a minor in Sports Management. He played in the drumline with the WSU marching band. These days, he plays the guitar and piano. Derek is a devoted fan of the Mariners, Seahawks, and Kraken.
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