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

Views: 2097

Comment by Marc Ramsey on August 26, 2014 at 10:05pm

The authorities are aware of his actions, and have chosen not to do anything, meaning that boy did not violate airspace, etc.

It's not clear that he didn't violate airspace, they just chose to do nothing but warn him, as I would expect under the circumstances.  Note that he said he would do it again, and still apparently has no clue as to what a TFR is for, or how to determine whether he is flying inside of one.  The belief that all you have to do is stay below 400 or 500 feet and stay away from airports, is simply not enough to prevent a serious accident.  Someone is going to get badly hurt or killed eventually, and none of us are going to like the consequences of that...

Comment by Ben Dellar on August 27, 2014 at 3:13am

Marc, I wasn't suggesting this was a court case only that you were perhaps being harsh by immediately assuming he had violated a TFR (or at least hinting at this) with no evidence at all.

Comment by John on August 27, 2014 at 7:10am
Once regulations are established and enacted it will become a federal offense with heavy penalties if these regulations are violated. That will be the legal avenue the authorities will take. And it's what is needed to stop people from threatening full scale aircraft and people on the ground. Doesn't matter which multirotor but the phantom is being targeted because it's the most dominant rtf quad out there that a 5 year old can fly without any experience. Personally I hope they ban all multirotors and inflict heavy penalties on anyone not flying at a designated ama flying field.
Comment by Rick Swanson on August 27, 2014 at 7:11am

My copter would have burned, as I seldom fly above the trees to keep from falling asleep.  I'm not an aviator, but I can see how a regular pilot might not want this kind of thing in the air.  As unpredictable as my APM craft is, I'd rather have the phantom(not a fan) filming me, than my copter though.  Being distracted while flying any aircraft is dangerous.

Comment by John on August 27, 2014 at 7:15am
Ben... What would it matter if he knew or not wether he was in restricted airspace? It's his responsibility to find out before flying his drone. Obviously with a large scale fire like this there will be low flying fire fighting aircraft in the vicinity. If one went down the drone pilot would hold sole responsibility for gross neglegence.
Comment by John Moore on August 27, 2014 at 7:45am

Sounds like another overreaction from "The Authorities"

Comment by Rick Swanson on August 27, 2014 at 7:48am

I think the authorities got it right, but the media coverage will kill the hobby.

Comment by Gary McCray on August 27, 2014 at 12:30pm

Hi Tom,

I agree that irresponsible quadcoptering reflects badly on us and the "authorities" and media love to hop on every example of it as justification for stomping "drones" into the ground.

But it is also true that as this article illustrates there is nothing remotely like consensus on what constitutes safe and reasonable use.

We see the words might and could a lot and very few examples of actual catastrophe.

That said, the main problem is two fold.

1. Communication, concisely and simply providing common ground rules for what is and what is not acceptable piloting and when and where it is permissible.

2. A reasonable and concise set of enforcement policies and laws which are in accordance with the first part and which will let people know what will happen to them if they choose to ignore it.

The FAA which should be at the forefront of establishing the second part has been doing a singularly awful job of it, certainly the reasonable and concise part as well as the timely part.

Mostly they have sought means to stomp it into the ground.

And the media, the government and the self interested military contractors have all just fanned the flames of "drone" dissent each for their own personal gain at the expense of the public good.

From the sound of it this 14 year old actually took the unusual step of reviewing current good practices before undertaking this flight and tried to conform to them as best he could.

We don't know if he was in any way in violation of anything or that he in fact did represent any safety hazard.

We just have the fire control safety officer afterwards, expressing doubts.

Clearly in any emergency, chain of command is of absolute importance, but that only works if there is any means by which to inform those not directly involved what those covenants are for this particular emergency.

At present, no chain exists by which to communicate this information, certainly not in circumstances such as this or that are common knowledge.

I am sure they would say if there were doubts he could have called the emergency control number and that in fact, you could count on the answer being no.

But, of course, I am sure you could say that about almost any question you asked about anything, because if they ever say yes, then whoever said that is immediately liable for the consequences.

Generally in a fire situation, the control officer has absolute control over ALL airspace in the immediate vicinity of the fire from the ground up, due to potentially extensive helicopter operations.

But the limits of that control are usually tightly defined although they can change rapidly and there is not much communication (except by air traffic control to pilots) to the public to expose those limits.

In this kind of instance there needs to be a widely known and easily called number which at least define the current emergency boundaries.

Among other things, news agencies will be switching to drone information gathering as soon as they can get the FAA out of the way and these operations are going to need the same quality of air traffic control now given to the pilots of their real helicopters.

This instance is definitely not clear cut, but it points more to holes in the system than it really does to irresponsible behavior.

Best Regards,


Comment by Thomas J Coyle III on August 27, 2014 at 4:04pm


Great observations and narrative concerning the requirements of responsible flying and need for clear and concise regulations when attempting to fly near or in a fire fighting zone.



Comment by Marius van Rijnsoever on August 27, 2014 at 4:20pm
“Although the aircraft remained outside the (temporary flight restriction area), it serves as a reminder that this emerging hazard is becoming more common due to their reduction in cost and the public’s interest in fire and natural disasters,” the statement reads.

What a non story. Even the official statement says nothing wrong was done. It is the same as saying "even though he waited for the light to turn green at the traffic light this serves as reminder about the dangers of crossing the road illegally"


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