The Wenatchee World

Weather:

Weather

The latest extended forecast from The Weather Channel

Remove this weather forecast

Tonight

Lo37° Chance Rain

Wednesday

Hi51° Partly Sunny

Wednesday Night

Lo42° Slight Chc Rain

Thanksgiving Day

Hi50° Slight Chc Rain

Thursday Night

Lo41° Chance Rain

Friday

Hi46° Chance Rain

Friday Night

Lo28° Mostly Cloudy

Saturday

Hi32° Mostly Sunny

Saturday Night

Lo16° Mostly Clear

Sunday

Hi29° Mostly Sunny

DNR plans to use unmanned aircraft for fire surveillance

Send to Kindle
Print This

OLYMPIA — The state Department of Natural Resources plans to test the use of drones to monitor wildfires this summer.

The agency has the use of one aircraft, on loan and free of charge, and hasn’t yet decided when or where to test it, said Mary Verner, DNR’s deputy supervisor for resource protection and administration. “We are going to look for the appropriate circumstance, and that’s unpredictable,” she said in a news conference this morning.

The aircraft is called the ScanEagle — built by Insitu, a subsidiary of Boeing — and is about 4 feet long with a 10-foot wingspan. It weighs about 40 pounds and is equipped with a video camera that sends information directly back to the firefighting basecamp.

Recent approval from the Federal Aviation Administration follows the state Legislature’s authorization in its last session to use what are called unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, for surveillance of fires that pose an urgent threat.

Verner said her agency will need prior approval from the FAA each time the ScanEagle is used, and it will not be used when other aircraft are being flown in the area.

The DNR currently uses airplanes and helicopters for fire surveillance, but they can be grounded by smoke, wind or darkness.

Sometimes we can’t get our pilots in because it’s dangerous,” said DNR spokeswoman Janet Pearce. “Now, we can send in a UAV. It’s going to save lives. It’s going to give us more information on the fire.”

Verner said that information includes flame lengths, how quickly fuels are catching fire, how fast the fire is spreading, and what direction it’s moving.

She said other states, including Alaska, Oregon and North Dakota already use similar unmanned aircraft for wildfire surveillance.

Use of a UAV can help get real-time information to firefighters on the ground,” Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark said in a prepared statement. “Just over the last few days we’ve seen more than a hundred fire starts in Washington. Additional information can provide a safer operating environment for firefighters.”

Reach K.C. Mehaffey at 509-997-2512 or . Read her blog An Apple a Day or follow her on Twitter at @KCMehaffeyWW.

All comments are moderated before appearing. For more information, please read the approval guidelines. Questions? See our Disqus commenting FAQ or our full commenting policy.

Comments Help

A few important points:

  • You must have a Disqus account to comment (your Wenatchee World login and Disqus login are completely separate)
  • You must provide your first and last name
  • Your comment must be civil

For more information see our Disqus commenting FAQ or our full commenting policy