Of all the elements they must battle in a wildfire, firefighters face a new foe: drones operated by enthusiasts who presumably take close-up video of the disaster.
Five such "unmanned aircraft systems" prevented California firefighters from dispatching helicopters with water buckets for up to 20 minutes over a wildfire that roared Friday onto a Los Angeles area freeway that leads to Las Vegas.
Helicopters couldn’t drop water because five drones hovered over the blaze, creating hazards in smoky winds for a deadly midair disaster, officials said.
The North Fire torched 20 vehicles on Interstate 15 and incited panic among motorists who fled on foot on the freeway Friday. The wildfire continued to burn uncontrollably Saturday, scorching 3,500 acres with only 5% containment in San Bernardino County, officials said.
Drones hovering over wildfires is a new trend in California, and on Saturday, fire officials condemned the operators of "hobby drones," as officials labeled them. It was unclear Saturday whether authorities would launch an investigation into the five drones.
"Fortunately, there were no injuries or fatalities to report, but the 15 to 20 minutes that those helicopters were grounded meant that 15 to 20 minutes were lost that could have led to another water drop cycle, and that would have created a much safer environment and we would not have seen as many citizens running for their lives," said spokesman Eric Sherwin of the San Bernardino County Fire Department.
Someone needs to do this during the PotashCorp Fireworks Festival in Saskatoon.
Indeed, if there is one overriding factor in Americaâ€™s secret warsâ€”especially in its drone campaignâ€”itâ€™s that the U.S. is operating in an information black hole. Our ignorance is not total, but our information is nowhere near adequate. When an employee of the C.I.A. fires a missile from a unmanned drone into a compound along the Afghan-Pakistani border, he almost certainly doesnâ€™t know for sure whom heâ€™s shooting at. Most drone strikes in Pakistan, as an American official explained to me during my visit there in 2011, are what are known as â€œsignature strikes.â€ That is, the C.I.A. is shooting at a target that matches a pattern of behavior that theyâ€™ve deemed suspicious. Often, they get it right and they kill the bad guys. Sometimes, they get it wrong. When Brennan claimed, as he did in 2011â€”clearly referring to the drone campaignâ€”that â€œthere hasnâ€™t been a single collateral death,â€ he was most certainly wrong.
NBC has the 16 page memo that makes the argument that it is okay to kill Americans which seems to go against their entire legal system.
As in Holderâ€™s speech, the confidential memo lays out a three-part test that would make targeted killings of American lawful: Â In addition to the suspect being an imminent threat, capture of the target must be â€œinfeasible, and the strike must be conducted according to â€œlaw of war principles.â€ But the memo elaborates on some of these factors in ways that go beyond what the attorney general said publicly. For example, it states that U.S. officials may consider whether an attempted capture of a suspect Â would pose an â€œundue riskâ€ to U.S. personnel involved in such an operation. If so, U.S. officials could determine that the capture operation of the targeted American would not be feasible, making it lawful for the U.S. government to order a killing instead, the memo concludes.
Drone killing is growing at such a boom that colleges are offering degrees in it. Â What is interesting about the article is that the FAA does not licence police forces to fly drones over high crime areas yet the Saskatoon City Police has a drone (really an amazing remote controlled helicopter) although from what I have read, it is more about taking photos of crime scenes than anything else.
The operator of the X6 guides the helicopter by using a remote control and wearing video-goggles that show what the chopper sees through the camera. While Draganfly staff will pilot the helicopter at first, police officers will decide what to photograph. Engele said he expects trained police officers will pilot the choppers themselves after they take a course this spring and receive proper clearances.
It wonâ€™t fly higher than a light post and will only be used in fair weather conditions, he said.
The American military has grown to rely on similar unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, to do aerial surveys and provide video to commanders on the ground.
The key in expanding the serviceâ€™s use of the technology is going to be proving the images hold up in court, Engele said. The X6 was used previously by the Ontario Provincial Police to photograph a homicide scene in rural Ontario and could be used in tactical or surveillance operations, he said.
â€œYou could use it for anything your brain can think of,â€ Engele said. â€œYou can fly it inside an office and take a picture of the whole room to capture blood splatter.â€
City residents can expect to see the mini-helicopter hovering above collision scenes around late-spring or summer, Engele said.