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I will admit it - I was wrong.


A year or more ago I wrote that I doubted that I would be affected by drones in the few years I have left in the helicopter industry. Today I read an article by The Canadian Press titled "Drones get nod of approval for use in battling B.C.'s blazes."

A spokeswoman for the BC Wildfire Service said drones have already been an important part of the battle against recent wildfires in northeastern BC because they are cheaper and safer than piloted aircraft. They can also be used at night, when most helicopters and planes are grounded. The spokesman said that allows firefighters to identify hot spots for immediate fire action at sunrise. To that, I say bullshit! I have fought fires in every province but the maritimes and I have never seen any crews head out anywhere near sunrise except to do an infrared scan. And that is not because they don't have any information gleaned from the night before. I don't doubt for a second that drones are cheaper than helicopters but if they really want to save money, maybe the helcos or fire bosses shouldn't be cruising around by themselves in a B3.

As I pointed out in a previous post, the jobs the drones are taking are entry level ones. What a perfect place for a low time pilot to get hours by flying around in circles thousands of feet above everyone directing them to various hotspots. Or with two passengers with an infrared scanner, knowing that there will be no landing in tight spots or toe-ins, or whatever.

For you operators out there with light/intermediate aircraft in your fleet, how many hours did you fly last year doing scans or helco work? You can kiss that work goodbye in the future.

I suppose that one can only hope that many companies either go broke or downsize commensurate with the predicted loss of work and then all **** breaks loose one summer and there are no helicopters available to fight the fires. Remember the Kelowna fire of 2009? Do you know why it got so out of hand? Forestry or some bean counter in Victoria had decided they didn't need to have any aircraft on standby in the summer, getting paid for just sitting there, and there was no aircraft available to fight the fire when it was small and manageable. I only hope that the next time it happens, someone other than homeowners, has to pay a price....... with their jobs.

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they know there are lots of aircraft around and they are playing that game again. No hire unless there is a fire. And if you do get hired it's usually casual hire = no mins! They used a drone for scanning a fire I was on last year. Still had to hire a helicopter to fly it there.. but ya there goes that work.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Though I had seen a KMax doing the fire fighting thing before, it was basically just the drop. One cannot help but be impressed with the video. Hard to imagine what they will be doing in ten years. I would strongly suggest those of you out there that are early in their pilot career, to write off your training costs as a really bad investment, and move on to something else.

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I don't know what kind of drones you guys are talking about but this one makes it hard to sleep at night. http://lockheedmartin.ca/us/products/kmax.html

Just came across this ad.

Many companies that use helicopters are currently developing programs to utilize UAV's. I agree that 10 years from now they will be very common, many operations that were conducted by the more expensive helicopter will be replaced by A UAV.



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I can't imagine being satisfied switching from real flying to babysitting a UAV half way through my career. I think there is a big technology overlap with the automotive industry trying to create self driving cars and trucks. It could advance at a very rapid rate with all of the competition and because of how many different applications there are for this.

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