Forest Service urges public to contact land managers before flying drones to prevent accidents

August 10, 2017 - 5:20 pm

On Monday, August 14, through Friday, August 18, the Forest Service plans to conduct the annual aerial survey for insect and disease outbreaks on the Tonto National Forest.  Forest Service airplanes and helicopters regularly fly over private, state, and National Forest System lands at low altitudes to perform a variety of natural resource management missions, including insect and disease surveys, remote sensing to acquire aerial images and data, and firefighting.

Under Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) safety guidelines, members of the public are required to fly drones at or below 400 feet, about the same altitude Forest Service aircraft fly on natural resource management missions.  The combination of low-flying aircraft and drones can be deadly.

“It would be a real tragedy if a member of the public was flying a drone for fun and either collided with a Forest Service aircraft or caused a pilot to be distracted and crash, resulting in serious injuries or fatalities,” said Daniel DePinte, Forest Health Specialist & Aerial Detection Surveyor with the Arizona Zone Forest Health Protection.  “We are asking the public to work with us to help prevent that from happening.”

The Forest Service urges drone operators to utilize the B4UFLY app at https://www.faa.gov/uas/where_to_fly/b4ufly/.  This app provides situational awareness by letting drone pilots know where they should and should not fly and where there might be conflicts with manned aircraft activities.

Data collected from the insect and disease aerial surveys can be accessed at https://foresthealth.fs.usda.gov/portal/Flex/IDS.  For questions related to this non-fire natural resource management aerial mission, contact Daniel DePinte, Forest Health Specialist & Aerial Detection Surveyor, at 928-556-2071 or [email protected].

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