In the event wildfires break out in Washington state this year, the Department of Natural Resources will be able to track the spread of the blaze with a new tool: a 40-pound drone known as a “ScanEagle.”
The DNR was given permission by the Federal Aviation Administration to use the drone for monitoring fires that “pose an urgent threat.” The four-foot-long drone sports a 10-foot wingspan and an array of cameras, and is manufactured by Insitu, a subsidiary of Boeing. According to Peter Goldmark, Washington’s Commissioner of Public Lands, the drone will be a boon to firefighting efforts.
“Use of a UAV can help get real-time information to firefighters on the ground,” he said in a press release. “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.”
The DNR frequently uses aircraft to track wildfires, but smoke and winds can ground airplanes and helicopters when they’re needed. The ScanEagle doesn’t need to worry as much about those inclement conditions, and that means there should be more accurate data flowing to firefighters on the ground more often.
According to the release, any decision to deploy the ScanEagle will be made in real time when fighting a fire, and will depend on the conditions at play.
The news comes after the Washington State Legislature voted to give the DNR the authority to deploy drones to monitor and suppress wildfires.
As previously reported, the use of drones have been banned in U.S. National Parks.