June 30, 2015
Reps. Peters, Hunter, Sinema Introduce Bill to Use UAVs to Fight Wildfires, Save Lives
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Scott Peters (CA-52), Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-09) and Congressman Duncan Hunter (CA-50) joined forces to introduce H.R. 2909, the “Protecting Firefighters and Promoting Innovation Act.”
This bipartisan legislation will leverage innovative technologies for California firefighters, reducing risks for first responders and improving the effectiveness of wildfire fighting strategies.
“San Diego is at the forefront of developing innovative unmanned aerial systems that we can integrate into our wildfire fighting services, but we have to ensure that they are utilized safely and effectively,” said Congressman Peters. “These technologies have the opportunity to provide more information for our first-responders, especially in hard-to-reach areas, which will help decrease the safety risk to firefighters in the field.”
The “Protecting Firefighters and Promoting Innovation Act” establishes an interagency working group to develop best practices for integrating Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) technologies into firefighting efforts. While no substitute for adequate funding and training, UAS can complement existing firefighting capabilities by improving coordination through real-time updates, delivering countermeasures in remote and inaccessible areas, and reducing the exposure and risk to first responders.
“Arizonans are too familiar with the devastating effects wildfires have on our communities,” said Congresswoman Sinema. “Two years ago, the Yarnell Hill Fire claimed the lives of 19 Arizona hotshots. These heroes put everything on the line to protect our neighbors and families, and it’s our responsibility to do everything we can to prevent future tragedies.”
“Firefighting is a dangerous job that is critical to the protection of life and property, and incorporating UAS into the firefighting process will improve firefighter safety and decrease the potential for injuries and casualties,” said Brian Wynne, President and CEO of the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. “Many first responders are realizing the potential of UAS technologies – including applications that may support battling the more than 60,000 wildland fires in the U.S. each year. This legislation is a critical step toward allowing UAS to be used as an essential tool in these all too common occurrences.”
The working group established by the bill will be led by the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Department of the Interior (DOI) and include representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the National Guard.
The group will also consult outside stakeholders and experts to ensure that any proposal is fiscally responsible, leverages existing federal resources where applicable, protects civil liberties, and includes state and local agencies in the process.