British Columbia Wildfire Service says drone interference halted wildfire containment

Drone pilots who interfered could face steep fines

DJI Phantom drone

The British Columbia Wildfire Service was compelled to issue a stern caution against flying drones above a wildfire after the issue forced air operations to halt on July 22nd.

The B.C. Wildfire Service said it was forced to temporarily halt air operations on a wildfire in Wilson Creek due to people operating unmanned aerial vehicles above the fire.

A helicopter was grounded and additional firefighting aircraft working on other fires in the area had to be diverted to avoid airspace around the Little Wilson Lake area, roughly 19 kilometres east of Nakusp, to avoid any potentially lethal collision.

While the airspace is now clear, the BC Wildfire Service is now working with the RCMP to investigate the incident.

In its statement, the Service reminded readers that, by law, drone pilots must give the fire a wide berth; the restricted airspace includes a radius of five nautical miles and up to an altitude of 3,000 feet.

Anyone caught operating a drone within that zone could be fined $25,000 CAD or jailed up to 18 months. Out-of-line pilots could also get hit with an interference charge resulting in a ticket fine of $1,150 and, upon conviction, a fine of up to $100,000 and/or imprisonment of over a year.

The lack of common sense exhibited by the drone users in Wilson Creek is not unique, unfortunately. Plane interference and the dropping of contraband into a prison are just two reasons for the introduction of strict regulation around drone use in Canada.

Over the past year or so, drone regulation has been a strong focus for Transport Canada, though critics have suggested the rules are too restrictive.

In spring 2018, new rules were proposed that are “easy-to-follow, flexible and balanced,” according to Transport Canada.

Source: B.C. Wildfire Service