Weaverville and Big Bar, CA – We reviewed our work on the Flat Fire, a watershed federal case that surprisingly settled out of court. We had to see it quickly and with the right experts to get definitive answers about post fire conditions. There’s no substitute for aerial reconnaissance, and there’s few substitutes for a drone these days. The tough little air ships are our eyes in the sky. Mark Thiessen is our pilot. We use a Phantom 4, powerful, long flight times, and very maneuverable. Drones can launch anywhere, rise straight up and then return to their starting point automatically. This is a handy feature when batteries start to run out or the drone gets too far from the drone remote controller. In Mark’s hand, the drone is our powerful air-to-ground telescope and camera, capturing images and revealing things about fire effects we could never see otherwise. Looking over Mark’s shoulder, I can guide the flight to see things I need to see without having to walk all over the steep terrain. We can drive the roads near the fire perimeter, park and fly around looking at the ground in real time, and record video and still images as we go.

I took some flying lessons while I was at it, just to prove how easy drones are to fly. It’s not as easy as it looks, but two to three hours of renting a Bell Long Ranger helicopter will pay for a good drone. On the other hand, there no substitute for flying over a fire in a helicopter and discussing things together to develop a common frame of reference.