The news is filled with stories about people who use drones in ways that endanger lives. It wasn't long ago that drones kept firefighters from fighting life-threatening blazes in California. But firefighters battling an Alberta firestorm that could prove Canada's "costliest natural disaster," according to Business Insider, are looking to drones to help answer the question of how it started — something that is still unknown for this fire that is estimated to take months to extinguish.
The fire has already burned over 150,000 hectares and was expected to more than double by yesterday evening. Meanwhile, firefighters hope that drones will help pinpoint the start of the fire to help investigators on the ground understand how it started. While it is unclear exactly how it could help, firefighters hope that finding the cause can help them fight the fire, which has so far shut down approximately half of the country's oil sands operations, displaced over 80,000 residents, and burned down over 1,600 structures.
As with many new technologies, drones too have the potential to harm but also to greatly aid society in a wide variety of ways. Just last year, a drone circling in the airspace of a firefighting air tanker in California caused the plane to be grounded until the space was cleared. Alternatively, drones have great potential as tools of search and rescue missions; you can even register to volunteer your drone for such missions.
While other countries are scrambling to create reasonable regulations for drone pilots (including for photographic and filming purposes), the United States Congress is still working on its own policies with regard to small commercial drone use.
Lead photograph by Alex Cooke: A Cleveland church near University Circle that caught on fire is photographed by a drone from a safe distance.
[via Business Insider]