New U.S. law pushes use of drones to fight wildfires

Last Tuesday, President Trump signed a bipartisan bill into law that pushes federal agencies to start using drones to fight wildfires. The details are described in Sec. 1114. titled “Wildfire technology modernization” of the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act. Not only is this new law good for the use of drones in fighting wildfires, but it may also help the use of unmanned aircraft in other industries, such as deliveries by drone, search and rescue missions, and the use of drones for agriculture, inspection and construction.

Using drones to fight wildfires

Sec. 1114. Wildfire technology modernization of the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act requires the secretary of the Department of the Interior to:

“Establish a research, development, and testing program, or expand an applicable existing program, to assess unmanned aircraft system technologies, including optionally piloted aircraft, across the full range of wildland fire management operations in order to accelerate the deployment and integration of those technologies into the operations of the Secretaries.”

Since the bill has been signed into law, the Department of the Interior (DoI) will have six months to start the program. The new law will require various federal agencies to work together and develop consistent protocols and plans to use drones to fight wildfires.

“In carrying out the program established under paragraph (2), the Secretaries, in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration, State wildland firefighting agencies, and other relevant Federal agencies, shall enter into an agreement under which the Secretaries shall develop consistent protocols and plans for the use on wildland fires of unmanned aircraft system technologies, including for the development of real-time maps of the location of wildland fires.”

You can read all the details of the new law here. Simply search for the word ‘unmanned’ and you will jump to the right section.

DroneDJ’s take on the use of drones to fight wildfires

It is very exciting to see a new law that requires federal agencies to explore the use of drones for good. Multiple drones can help to quickly monitor large areas of land and map the locations of wildfires, helping to keep the fires under control and to keep people safe.

In addition, this new law will put even more pressure on the FAA and other agencies to develop the regulation needed to allow for flying unmanned aircraft beyond-line-of-sight, at night, etc. This, in turn, will help other drone applications as well. I’m thinking of medication, medical samples and organ deliveries by drone, packet deliveries by drone, search-and-rescue missions by drone, and the use of drones for agricultural, inspection and construction purposes.

What do you think about about this new law and the implications for the larger drone industry? Let us know in the comments below.


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Avatar for Haye Kesteloo Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Main Writer at DroneDJ, where he covers all drone related news and writes product reviews. He also contributes to the other sites in the 9to5Mac group such as; 9to5Mac, 9to5Google, 9to5Toys and Electrek. Haye can be reached at or @hayekesteloo