Drones For Good: wildfires


2021 was in my mind, probably one of the worst seasons that we’ve seen.

The forest in general is much drier than it has been.

And the speed that these fires move is fast.

Something is changing here in terms of climate and drone technology is going to be a major player to try to minimize the damage that is done by these fires every year.

My name is Tim Stinson, I’m operations manager for Stinson Aerial Services here in British Columbia.

BC Wildfire is using drones to identify hotspots for the ground crews, or the air crews the following day.

What we’re trying to do there is remove some of the instances where pilots are put into tough positions.

Some of the biggest risks for helicopters might be power lines when they’re hazed by smoke.

So, if a drone can be put in that situation, then put pilots where they’re better suited and are going to return home at night.

So, a big part of what we do in wildfires is flying our drones beyond visual line of sight.

We have to submit an operational risk assessment in order to qualify for a special flight operations certificate.

You have to be an accomplished drone pilot, you have to know the ins and outs of your system.

You have to have a lot of trust and faith in your team that you’re going to work together, especially in a situation like a wildfire. It’s pretty high stakes.

It’s exciting but it’s also nerve-racking because there are so many things that can be safety hazards.

The risks involved in this type of flying I think are high. Putting a drone into the wrong spot just increases that potential for something to go wrong.

The last thing that a pilot in an aircraft or helicopter is thinking about is a drone hitting its window. It’s really important that people that fly drones understand that it’s better that we just keep our personal drones in our pockets during those events.

It’s a great feeling to use technology for good. The drone itself can ensure the safety of evacuees or people who are in the path of a wildfire.

It can help ensure the safety of wildland firefighter crews.

If we can start to utilize these types of systems to be able to move things while we’re on the fire lines, I think we’ll see some huge advantages over time.

In British Columbia alone, we face some of the toughest terrain, some of the most interesting weather, and lots of changes. If we can overcome these pieces, we’ll be able to apply this to many other jurisdictions across Canada.