Could drones help battle wildfires?

Test sites proposed to learn how drones could improve wildfire monitoring, mitigation, and containment

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Images taken from space can provide a lot of information about wildfires, but low-level flights by unmanned aircraft could help make firefighting safer and more efficient, some experts believe. This image of the West Fork Fire Complex in the San Juan Mountains of southern Colorado was taken June 26 from the International Space Station. Visit this NASA Earth Observatory page for more information about the image.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A pair of U.S. Senators wants to get a leg up on wildfires by spurring the use of unmanned surveillance aircraft to make firefighting efforts more efficient.

“Extreme wildfires have become an all too common occurrence in Colorado, leaving families without homes and hundreds of thousands of charred acreage in their paths,” said Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO). “We need to employ every tool available to help firefighters in their battles. This bipartisan amendment will help us develop UAS technology and teach us more about how they can strengthen our fights against wildfires more quickly and safely.”

Bennet (D-CO) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) this week introduced an amendment to create two additional test sites for unmanned aerial systems, with a focus on how they could be used for firefighting. Continue reading

Colorado: Drones eyed for greater sage-grouse monitoring

Public invited to learn more about the use of unmanned aircraft at a demonstration in Kremmling

FORT scientist and Raven-A sUAS pilot Leanne Hanson launches the drone. USGS photo.

FORT scientist and Raven-A sUAS pilot Leanne Hanson launches the drone in the San Luis Valley as part of an effort to monitor sandhill cranes.  USGS photo.

Greater sage-grouse. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Greater sage-grouse. Photo courtesy USFWS.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — State and federal scientists may use small drones to monitor greater sage-grouse in their breeding grounds, and will offer the public a chance to see how the technology works starting next week.

The planned test flights are a collaboration between Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the U.S. Geological Survey. The agencies will conduct test flights to evaluate whether the small unmanned aircraft can save time and money and offer a safer and enhanced alternative to gather greater sage-grouse data.

The low-flying aircraft may be able to get more detailed counts of the threatened birds, and may even help biologists find previously unknown leks.

“The aircraft proved successful in other recent wildlife inventory projects conducted by USGS,” said Lyle Sidener, area wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife in Hot Sulphur Springs. “We are interested to see if greater sage-grouse will tolerate the craft flying near their leks at the lower altitudes necessary to provide useful data.” Continue reading

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