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Double-Edged Sword: Drone Delivery Helps Clinic, but Drones Prevent Firefighting

July 21, 2015  - By 2 Comments


In a striking contrast, the positive and negative sides of unmanned aerial vehicles were highlighted in a single day, July 17. First, in a government-approved demonstration, drones were used to deliver prescription medicine to patients at a temporary health clinic in rural Virginia, reports the Wall Street JournalThe event, reported previously by GPS World, aimed to show how UAVs can alleviate the problem of health-care access while creating economic opportunity for communities.

A manned aircraft carried the packages most of the way, and the flight plan originally called for the drone to make six round trips to carry a total of 10 pounds. But after two successful deliveries, officials decided to send the rest of the payload in one flight.

In stark contrast to that beneficial use of drones, efforts by firefighters to battle a fierce wildfire in California on July 17 were hampered by hobbyists flying consumer drones to capture video of the flames. Planes attempting to deliver water drops found their flights delayed or blocked by the presence of the drones, with private drones flying over the wildfire grounding firefighting aircraft for almost half an hour.

In the past month, drones have gotten in the way of firefighters in San Bernadino County, the Plumas National Forest and, most recently, Interstate 15, which connects Los Angeles and Las Vegas, reports PBS.

State lawmakers in California are drafting a bill that would impose heavy fines and potential jail time on anyone whose personal drone interferes with firefighting efforts.

This article is tagged with , , , , and posted in GIS News, UAS/UAV
Tracy Cozzens

About the Author:

Senior Editor Tracy Cozzens joined GPS World magazine in 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.

2 Comments on "Double-Edged Sword: Drone Delivery Helps Clinic, but Drones Prevent Firefighting"

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  1. RJ says:

    Nice article,
    Interesting to see all the different drone delivery service attempt.. I mean it seems that a lot of industries are going to use drone to their advantage.


  2. Leatherstocking says:

    Most drones lack the sensors and telemetry to operate in the National Airspace System. Until they are able to see and avoid other traffic and obstructions as well as to stay out of controlled airspace, they are a danger to manned aircraft, helos and balloons. They are a collision risk for all current airspace users. A one kilogram bird strike can cause the loss of an aircraft or helo so almost all drones are a risk. This can be addressed but it’ll need a lot of technology, smart regulations, operator training and adjustments to make it work. Otherwise, public backlash after several crashes will delay the process by years.

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