Bend boy’s drone among those cited as ‘emerging hazard’ for forest firefighters

From the SUAS Feed

BEND — It cost a Bend teenager about $800 in revenue from chores, yard work and birthday gifts to buy a miniature aircraft and a camera he sent aloft to capture video of a forest fire this summer that was threatening the western edge of the city.

The images were a YouTube hit, but they were also a source of worry for fire bosses concerned about the possibility that drones could interfere with firefighting and possibly bring down a big aircraft.

Morgan Tien, 14, told The Bulletin newspaper of Bend that he had read federal guidelines on when and where he could fly his DJI Phantom, a small quadcopter he fitted with a GoPro camera.

Tien’s not in trouble for the flight, which went up from his patio on June 7, followed by a second flight the next day. They didn’t get into restricted air space.

But federal authorities cited the flights, along with others this summer in Washington state and California. They called them an “emerging hazard.”

Drones may be a problem for firefighters if the drones fly into restricted airspace over and near a wildfire, where air tankers and helicopters could be in the air, said Mike Ferris, a spokesman in Portland for the U.S. Forest Service.

Full article here: Bend Boy

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Comment by Thomas J Coyle III on August 26, 2014 at 4:18pm

To me this is Buy & Fly with no idea of the consequences of what he is doing in relation to firefighting aircraft in the area of a fire.



Comment by Marc Ramsey on August 26, 2014 at 5:14pm

I'm missing something here.  How does the newspaper reporter know that "they didn’t get into restricted air space"?  If there are aircraft already present at a forest fire, it is pretty safe to assume that they have established a TFR with a radius of at least 5nm (and sometimes much larger), from ground level to an altitude 3000 ft AGL or more.  For licensed pilots, that's a pretty clear message to stay at least that far away.  How close did he get?

Comment by Thomas J Coyle III on August 26, 2014 at 5:34pm


I wondered about how close he was too to be able to get video of the fire.

As you have speculated, he may have been within restricted airspace at the point he captured the video.



Comment by Quadzimodo on August 26, 2014 at 6:01pm
I don't think it is unreasonable for authorities to suggest that drones are potentially and emerging hazard. This is not the first time a civilian has been in the news for flying above a brushfire or in an area where firies are actively engaged in fighting a fire, and it will not be the last. A similar situation a while back here in Australia prompted a public response from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.
Comment by Jesse on August 26, 2014 at 6:20pm

When you make a product available for anyone, at any age, and any IQ level and any skill level, you're going to have all sorts of things go wrong.

Comment by Andrew Rabbitt on August 26, 2014 at 6:50pm

With the exception of age, the same can be said of elected office, Jesse

Comment by Ben Dellar on August 26, 2014 at 8:59pm

I would emphasise caution with your assumption Marc. It is not the operators responsibility to prove the negative that they weren't in restricted airspace (this is the fundamental principal behind the entire western justice system). The burden is on the authorities to prove that they did violate a TFR.

I get frustrated by the tone of many posts assuming wrongdoing just because it is a DJI product. This article is using Morgan as an example of someone flying around fires without doing anything wrong and telling that story alongside an vaguely connected grumble by various"Federal Authorities".

Comment by Greg Nuspel on August 26, 2014 at 9:18pm

My father was a forest office so I know what type of activity occurs around a fire. I can easily see how drones could become a hazard. You notice they only cited this as a potential hazard and the boy isn't in trouble. I'm sure someone will get too close and become a hazard it will only be a matter of time.

Comment by Mathew krawczun on August 26, 2014 at 9:22pm

and that Anderw is why there a lot of vetting that goes into people who get elected to offices but any idiot can buy a drone.

Comment by Marc Ramsey on August 26, 2014 at 9:29pm

Ben, I'm sorry, your comment is misguided and wrong.  The kid is not under arrest, he is not being taken to court, there is no indication that there will be any direct direct consequences for his flights.  This was simply an attempt to educate and warn people not to do stuff like this, for good reason. By his own words, it's clear he had no idea what kinds of airspace restrictions are present around forest fires.  Multiply this ignorance by tens or even hundreds of thousands, and perhaps even you can begin to see the problem.

There are large TFRs (Temporary Flight Restrictions) established around aerial fire fighting activities, because there are usually multiple aircraft, both large and small, some flying at high speeds (you know they use DC-10s and 747s as water bombers, now?) and low altitudes, under close radio coordination, focused on fighting a fire. They are NOT focused on dodging aerial spectators, whether in the form of a news helicopter or the latest DJI toys.  You may think there is no danger, but what you think is, in this case, meaningless.  Getting hit by a DJI in the right spot while one is flying at 200 knots, or even being momentarily distracted by one, is enough to put an aircraft into the trees.

Those of us who are licensed to fly in US airspace (and elsewhere) are subject to regulations, and are periodically tested to make sure we continue to understand those regulations.  Like it or not, if you want to fly your multicopter outdoors, you will eventually have to do the same, as clearly self-regulation is not going to work...


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