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Updated May 27, 2013 - 7:24 am

Drones could play bigger role in future wildfires

PHOENIX — The FAA will pass new rules in 2015 and Congress would have to sign off on those rules that could open airspace to more unmanned drones and that could be invaluable when it comes to fighting wildfires.

KTAR wildfire expert Eric Neitzel said remote-controlled drones would be able to cut through the thickest smoke and give fire commanders a big jump on where wildfires are moving and where to put the manpower.

“It’s not a firefighting air tanker that could drop water but it’s an intelligence gathering tool,” Neitzel said.

Neitzel said the unmanned aircraft has been used before in 2007-2008 to take a birds eye view of mammoth fires in California and Idaho. He was impressed.

“They covered a large area to map out the fires. They provided near real-time information that gave us a tool to better know where these fires were.”

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