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Last summer, one of the many fires with which federal and local officials had to contend raged in the Umpqua National Forest in southwest Oregon, close to the California border.

During one flight over the fire in August, a Bureau of Land Management pilot saw something he later said “wasn’t supposed to be there.” A “spot fire” had broken out beyond the edge of the main blaze, likely set off by a windblown ember.

If the second fire, discerned through an infrared camera since smoke limited visibility to just 100 feet, wasn’t addressed quickly, it could threaten yet more property and lives.

But the pilot hadn’t spotted the spot fire from a helicopter or airplane. He was operating a drone.

That spot fire in Oregon was ultimately contained before it became an issue, according to a video produced by the Department of the Interior highlighting a success story, officials say, in the federal government’s effort to modernize fighting forest fires with a fleet of unmanned aircrafts.

The BLM, a division within Interior, later estimated the early detection of the fire by the drone saved $50 million in land and infrastructure value that could have otherwise been lost.

A good example of peaceful and productive uses of drone technology.  To read more, click here.


Category: Science