Drone lands, catches fire, ignites wildfire

Kendrick Fire Arizona

(UPDATED at 11:27 a.m. MST March 7, 2018)

The drone that landed, caught fire, and ignited what became a 335-acre fire in Northern Arizona was battery-powered and approximately 16″ x 16″, a spokesperson for the Coconino National Forest said. The operator reported the fire and was later cited for causing timber, trees, slash, brush, or grass to burn. The spokesperson did not know exactly how the drone caught fire.


(Originally published at 4:32 p.m. MST March 6, 2018)

Just a couple of hours ago we wrote about how proud the Department of the Interior is of their drone program (as they should be). And there’s no doubt that Unmanned Aerial Systems can play an important part in improving situational awareness for wildland firefighters.

But today  investigators have determined that the preliminary cause of a wildfire north of Flagstaff is a drone that landed and caught fire. At 3:25 p.m. MST Tuesday the Coconino National Forest said firefighters had stopped the spread of the resulting wildfire after it burned 335 acres near Kendrick Park by Forest Roads 514 and 524.

kendrick fire map arizona drone

There is no information yet about the operator of the drone or if it was powered by a battery or gasoline.

All of these photos were provided by the Coconino National Forest.

Kendrick Fire Arizona

Kendrick Fire Arizona

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Tom.
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6 thoughts on “Drone lands, catches fire, ignites wildfire”

  1. IF it was a battery powered drone … The big aviation world has been aware of the dangers of Lithium batteries for years. They are a very big FAA concern. The model airplane community has been aware of the crash sensitivity of Lithium rechargeable batteries for a very long time. So it shouldn’t be a big surprize if the same problem is appearing with the UAS community that employs lithium rechargeable batteries.

    Even Tesla has had a couple of model S automobile fires.

  2. I to have a few questions about this incident. Such as was the drone running very low battery condition then landed and catch fire? Did the Pilot land the aircraft and then it caught fire. That would indicate to me that the if this was an emergency landing then it caught fire then pilot must not known of the low battery condition prior to this in the accident. But if this was a control landing why wasn’t a pilot in command near the drone when it landed? At this point the operator could have taken control of the situation by simply putting out the fire or at least isolating it to the point that it did not spread to the degree that it did. Lipo battery fire is a very bad thing.

  3. Even if it were absolutely determined to be a drone that caused the fire, what is the score now?

    Other causes including lightning, cigarettes, campfires, cars, offroad exhaust etc. etc.: Hundreds if not thousands.

    Drones: 1.

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