Standards for Fire Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operations

By Paul Keller

In case you missed this when it was distributed earlier this year, you should know that the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) has released its “NWCG Standards for Fire UAS Operations” publication (

This 21-page document provides standardized processes and procedures for the interagency use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) (drones) in support of fire management goals and objectives within the aviation community to ensure that the utilization of UAS occurs in a safe, effective, and efficient manner.

As stated in the document’s introduction, “These standards further serve as a risk assessment for fire UAS operations and meet federal requirements for aviation safety and operational planning pertaining to recurring aviation missions. Agency level policy and guidance is provided through established federal or state plans and processes.”

Taylor Creek and Klondike Fires, Rogue-Siskiyou NF, OR, 2018

Unmanned Aircraft Systems (drones) were used to implement aerial ignitions on the Klondike/Taylor Creek Fire last August in southwest Oregon. Photo by Kari Greer.

Span of Information

This publication’s chapters include information on: “UAS Policy and Program Administration,” “UAS Typing and Call Signs,” “Operational Requirements,” “Mission Planning and Mobilization,” “Airspace Coordination,” “Mission Flight Procedures,” “Safety,” “Job Aids,” and “UAS Incursion Protocol.”

“Appendix B – Website References” contains informative website links for “UAS Terms and Abbreviations,” “UAS Policy,” “Flight Planning” and more.

3 thoughts on “Standards for Fire Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operations

  1. These are fine documents, but when you have the fleet of 800 grounded, the policy isn’t doing any good until the DJI conundrum and Chinese tech gets cleared up or a new US vendor starts selling these things. There should have been some standards such as the one for FAA Part 23 for UAS well before folks got excited in the mass buy of these things.

  2. Not sure how much this “grounding” has to do with China when both Parrot Anafi and 3DR SOLO are also affected. A more thoughtful approach to the China/DJI issue would have been to ground the DJI products, a small part of the fleet, and let the rest of the aircraft continue to do resource work. Instead we got a “knee jerk” reaction from someone on the Hill.

    • Well I guess consider the 737 MAX of the sUAS fleet….but THAT knee jerk reaction was need cuz Boeing and some of the airlines figured one hour on an Ipad per pilot was “gonna get one” by as far as training.

      Knee jerk reaction or not, no matter the training levels, there must be some concern, cuz in some circles, like Fitbit, some of these “ships” aren’t allowed on some DoD properties, either

      One would think there would be some real intelligent information coming out from DOI on the details reducing speculation

      But being a pilot of light aircraft……I KNOW the trials and tribulations of getting those certificates, yet lets see some real info out there for some light transparency…

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