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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

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Colorado makes bid for federal drone test site

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.

Federal biologists use a drone in the San Luis Valley as part of an effort to monitor sandhill cranes. USGS photo.

Political leaders pitch Colorado in a letter to the FAA

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Colorado could be in the mix as the Federal Aviation Administration prepares to select six sites around the country to test drone technology, or Unmanned Aircraft Systems, as they are formally known.

Federal and state wildlife biologists are already testing drones to monitor birds in Colorado. NASA is also using drones to study tropospheric climate drivers, as well as hurricanes.

Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, Gov. John Hickenlooper and five of Colorado’s members of the U.S. House of Representatives recently sent a letter to the Federal Aviation FAA, urging the agency to choose Colorado. The bipartisan letter notes Colorado’s “unique mix of qualifications” for one of the test sites, including its thriving aerospace industry presence and the state’s world-class institutions of higher education. Continue reading

Travel: U.S. Senate acts to avert more airport delays

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The U.S. Senate wants to keep air traffic moving.

Budget shuffle could enable FAA to avoid furloughs

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — With the busy summer travel season already winding up, the U.S. Senate acted to try and prevent more delays at U.S. Airports. The bipartisan deal to give the FAA more budget flexibility was led by Senators Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine).

The Reducing Flight Delays Act gives the U.S. Secretary of Transportation the flexibility to transfer discretionary funds into the FAA’s operations budget to prevent essential employees, such as air traffic controllers, from being furloughed.  Continue reading

Colorado: Udall working on a bill to regulate drone use

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The Aerovision Fulmar drone was developed primarily to help fishermen find tuna.

New legislation aimed at protecting privacy

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — With drone technology becoming prevalent for surveillance and other purposes, Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) said he is writing legislation aimed protecting the privacy rights.

In a release, Udall said unmanned aerial systems technology has the potential to create jobs and provide significant benefits for local law enforcement and private businesses, but   privacy safeguards — at the state and federal levels — have not kept pace with the technology.

Unmanned aerial technology can be used for oil and gas exploration, transporting goods, scientific research, search and rescue missions, conservation work and forest fire detection. Continue reading

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