Drone crash sparks forest fire in Arizona

A drone owner has been charged with starting a fire in Arizona after his drone ignited upon crashing in the Flagstaff parklands, Arizona, USA. The fire spread and destroyed over 300 acres of grassland in Arizona’s Coconino national forest. Around 30 firefighters battled the blaze, and bought it under control within a day.

The reasons for the drone being in the area are unclear. If found guilty, the drone’s owner could face a jail sentence.

The history of drones connected with forest fires is mixed. They have a part to play in the prevention of fire in that they can be sent where it would be dangerous to send an expert to identify fire origin and spread, and help fire fighters decide the best way to keep it under control. But whilst it is legal for the public to fly a drone in a USA National Forest, there are strict regulations governing when and where they can be flown. In 2017, helicopters helping to tackle a fire in the same forest were hampered by a drone taking pictures of the blaze.
In the UK the government have tightened up the laws on the use of drones, and created a six point ‘drone code’, including that the pilot should always have their drone ‘in sight’ in case of potential problems. But in making the code the government acknowledged that these were early days in the use and potential of the drone.

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