Washington State gets approved for UAS use in wildfire monitoring

By Emily Aasand | July 31, 2014

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources received authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration to use unmanned aerial vehicles in monitoring wildfires that pose an urgent threat.

“Use of a UAV can help get real-time information to firefighters on the ground,” said Peter Goldmark, commissioner of Public Lands, earlier this year. “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.”

If the UAV is warranted, the agency will use a ScanEagle system that is about four feet long, has a 10-foot wingspan, weighs about 40 pounds and is equipped with cameras. The UAV is made by Insitu, a Washington-based UAV manufacturer that is part of the Boeing Co. Any decision to use the UAV will be made in real time and will depend on the emergency conditions of the wildfire.

There is currently a burn ban on DNR-protected lands, but weather conditions suggest a tough fire season, according to the Wash.-DNR.

“At a time when resources are stretched, using a UAV can save money and help us accomplish our mission,” said Goldmark. “I appreciate the leadership of the legislature, and especially the vision of State Senator Jim Hargrove, in helping us apply this technology to fighting fires, protecting communities and preserving habitat.”