Drone: clearing the air

Some media are reporting we put aircraft at risk by flying a drone over a forest fire in Peachland. That is not the case, they are not reporting the facts. 

I was at the forest fire, I flew the drone, this is what I know:

  • The helicopter was finished for the day - I confirmed with the team leader of the forestry crew working the fire that there would be no more flights over the area
  • There were no fixed wing craft on the fire
  • The fire was in mop-up stage, no need for any more flights when the fire is out
  • It was only a .25 hectare fire
  • I informed a forest firefighter that I would be taking the drone up and he said he looked forward to seeing the video
  • I shot the helicopter, from the ground, making its drops. Then it was called off and the forestry crew moved in
  • I was beside the forest firefighters shooting them as they put out hot spots 
  • It was an hour after the helicopter left when I brought out the drone
  • The drone was in a black case that I was carrying with me while I talked to the ground crew. I walked down a road, in clear sight of the firefighters, to unpack and launch the drone
  • I had the drone up for about a minute, hovering just above the treetops. When I was told they still had a 'no fly zone' over the fire, I landed the drone immediately
  • We do not fly directly over anyone with the drone. If it were to crash we don't ever want to hit anyone. We shoot off to the side of a situation or in front or behind it to avoid human contact
  • Castanet was the only media company at the fire

After I brought the drone down, the forestry worker thanked me and then he asked me a number of questions about the drone. He said he could see how having one might help them to locate hot spots and dangerous trees while they attack a fire.

It was a good lesson. Now we know that even if planes and helicopters are called off, there is still a no fly zone over forest fires and we will not be sending the drone up.

We will never put lives at risk for a shot from the air.

Trevor Rockliffe, Castanet News Editor.


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