Both Cal Fire and the U.S. Forest Service are exploring how the devices could provide a safer, less-costly option than airplanes to survey fires from the air.
The agencies have occasionally experimented with the technology and are both working on formal policies, but with no timeline for adoption.
"As a government agency, it makes it not quite as easy as just going down to the hobby shop and purchasing a drone and flying it in your backyard," says Jennifer Jones of the Forest Service. "It’s a lot more complicated than that."
"We could potentially map and monitor vegetation or the general conditions of forest, sample air quality at various altitudes," says Jones, "detecting damage caused by forest insects and diseases, monitoring habitat of fish and wildlife populations."
While the U.S. military has flown unmanned machines for years, domestic agencies have been slow to adopt them, due to concerns about privacy and air space, as well as a lack of drone-specific regulations.
Forest Service regulations require pilots of the remote-controlled aircraft to be licensed as though they are in the plane.
CapRadio provides a trusted source of news because of you. As a nonprofit organization, donations from people like you sustain the journalism that allows us to discover stories that are important to our audience. If you believe in what we do and support our mission, please donate today.