Drone shuts down helicopter drops on Williams Flats Fire, operator found

Williams Flats Fire drone
File photo of a law enforcement officer patrolling the waters in the Columbia River adjacent to the Williams Flats Fire, August 10, 2019. InciWeb.

On August 6, 2019 a hobbyist drone temporarily shut down helicopter water drops on the Williams Flats Fire in northeast Washington. After the incursion was reported by a Safety Officer, the Air Tactical Group Supervisor diverted a large Type 1 helicopter that was en route from the helibase until the air space could be cleared.

A law enforcement officer patrolling the adjacent Columbia River discovered the drone was operated by a person on a houseboat. After discussing the dangers of flying a drone over a fire and the potential fine associated with it, the officer decided not to ticket the operator.

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6 thoughts on “Drone shuts down helicopter drops on Williams Flats Fire, operator found”

  1. If the drone was large enough that a spotter could see it, it was well within the range that requires the drone to be registered with the FAA, and that registration comes with a flight rules test that INCLUDES information in regards to forest fires and other avoidance areas.

    I’m sorry if this ruffles some feathers (not really), but that drone pilot should NOT have gotten off with a warning. They should have gotten ticketed, and their case referred to the FAA for further inquiry. It’s irresponsible drone pilots like this, that give those of us who follow the rules, and obey the flight restrictions, a bad name.

    As a certified drone pilot that follows the rules, until incidences like these are cracked down on and the punishments made VERY public, we are going to continue to have pilots like this, who are a danger to manned aircraft, and who put peoples lives at risk every time they fly their drones. There is no excuse for this. None at all.

  2. It is my understanding the FAA classifies these things as “Aircraft,” and as such they have all the protection your Cessna, Beechcraft, Pipers, Gulfstream, and Boeing “aircraft” enjoy. This information is dated and incomplete but … Until that hidebound agency comes up with better rules, “Droneshield,” nets, shotguns, electronic disruption, collision, other drones and birds of prey cannot be used to bring them down. In my experience, trying to get any agency to draw in its horns is a futile endeavor. Once having expanded their reach bureaucrats are loath to surrender even a scintilla of Power in any form. Once having defined anything as falling under its purview, an Agency will defend its grasp of power, even to the death. It is, of course, for our own “protection.”
    IMHO, of course. I do not fly the things, so I have neither a magpie or a buzzard in the fight.

    It may well be the responding officer weighed the heavy hand of the Federales against the circumstances on the ground and exercised some discretion in not beginning a Federal Case against the pilot of a small drone. Sometimes a little education solves the problem at the lowest possible level. But of course, I was not present, nor does it fall under my purview to cast judgment on them.

  3. Once a TFR (Temporary Flight Restriction) has been “hoisted” over a fire, then Drones fall under the umbrella of this FAA mandate, and as such are subject to the laws underwritten. Thus, it you fly a drone, Cessna, or any aircraft without authorization, you are subject to criminal prosecution at the level of Felony. In 2017, a drone operator forced the shut down of aerial operations over a large fire in Arizona. Once caught, he faced 14 felony counts.
    Read here: https://www.newser.com/story/245132/man-arrested-after-drone-interferes-with-firefighters.html

  4. What is the source of this information? We are interested in getting the name of the Law Enforcement Officer or that officers agency to our Tribal Police and Natural Resource Officers so they can speak with them directly..

    Thank you,

    1. Go, Larry.
      Though I rather agree with you, Roberto, on your well-written point, I think it applies perfectly to riding a dirt bike at 25 mph on a farm road where it’s prohibited. Putting pilots’ lives at risk, not to mention firefighters and civilians on the ground, plus government-owned and contractor-owned aircraft, plus non-human resources on the ground, deserves more than a polite educational warning.

      The “heavy hand of the Federales” needs to be smote hard upon any person illegally flying a drone over a fire. Period.

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