Santee Drone Helicopter Interference
A helicopter that was attempting to extinguish a brush fire in Santee, a suburb of San Diego, California, was forced to stop operations after a drone entered its airspace. The Santee drone helicopter interference delayed the firefighting efforts as the San Diego Sheriff’s Department attempted to evacuate area residents threatened by the blaze. According to fire officials, drones are hazardous because they could potentially crash into the propeller of firefighting helicopter.
Cal Fire responded to the drone interference with a series of tweets, reminding pilots to not enter the airspace near emergency response operations. The tweets indicated “Cal Fire San Diego is assisting Santee Fire in the area of the 9400 block of Prospect Ave. Shortly after the arrival of our helicopter, a drone was observed in the airspace of the fire forcing the helicopters to land. The unauthorized intrusion of our airspace by drone pilots is a danger to responders and the public in the area of the fire and will be prosecuted.“
The FAA has stated that drone pilots who “recklessly interfere with firefighting or other emergency response operations” are subject to civil penalties from the FAA of up to $27,500 per violation, as well as criminal prosecution.
Helicopters provide invaluable assistance in fighting fires, thereby greatly minimizing damage and saving lives. The response to woodland or brush fires needs to be immediate. Companies like FairLifts, which works with a global network of helicopter operators to facilitate fire control and extinguishing solutions, provide essential aid in combating natural disasters.
FairLifts can reserve aerial firefighting response solutions within hours. The affiliated network’s helitankers are equipped with customized suppression systems and are piloted by experienced firefighting pilots. FairLifts assists individuals, businesses, as well as local and federal government agencies in reserving helicopter services like those engaged in fighting wildfires.
Helitanker firefighting efforts include applying water or retardant to fire lines to control or extinguish the blaze. The advantage of firefighting helicopters is that they can hover over the fire and drop water repeatedly within minutes. It has been reported that “The U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management own, lease, or contract for nearly 1,000 aircraft each fire season, with annual expenditures in excess of US$250 million in recent years.“