Lane Community College flight instructor Solomon Singer has been using his drone to provide support and surveillance for the Holiday Farm fire east of Eugene-Springfield, Oregon.
The fire erupted on Labor Day and caused hundreds of people to evacuate, destroyed homes and resulted in one fatality as it grew to 174,404 acres. It’s now 80 percent contained.
Singer had to obtain FAA approval prior to volunteering on the fire. It was granted within five minutes of his request. That night, he used his drone and spotted a fire that crews were able to extinguish and prevent further spread.
Drones can fly under nighttime and smoky conditions when helicopters and planes can’t, Singer says.
“When there’s smoke everywhere, you often can’t see a fire until it’s obvious and too late,” he says. “That’s why it’s important to have an eye in the sky looking for hotspots to catch fires before they become another conflagration.”
Drones are increasingly used by fire departments to detect hot spots, fire outbreak and spread. They are also used in search and rescue, inspections, environmental and wildlife protection, film-making, mapping and more.
And a growing number of community colleges are offering training in using them. LCC offers a variety of credentials, including an FAA remote pilot license, an associate of applied science degree in commercial unmanned aerial systems (UAS), and commercial UAS certificates in geographic information science and aerial photography.
Students in LCC’s UAS program learn cutting-edge technology, advanced and safe autonomous flight systems and flight skills, and take courses in professionalism, safety and respect for privacy. Classes include advanced materials 3D printing and aircraft design, electronics assembly, and technical and advanced flying missions.
LCC offers drone assistance when disaster strikes, such as the Holiday Fire.
“It’s really exciting to show students how useful and life-saving drones can be,” says Singer. “Drone flight is an up-and-coming, high-demand career field.”