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Orem-based company ready to help spot drones at wildfires

By Jed Boal  |  Posted Jun 20th, 2016 @ 9:44pm


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OREM — If a drone shows up illegally on a wildfire, SpotterRF can pinpoint the drone's GPS location and track it.

"You know exactly where it's at," SpotterRF founder and CEO Logan Harris said.

SpotterRF, a Utah County company, is ready to help. The portable radar can spot a drone about three times the distance of normal eyesight.

"If you can see where it came from, you can go ahead and interdict the operator and tell the operator to bring it down," Harris said.

The system also has the capability, but not the legal clearance to jam radio frequencies.

"You can direct antenna just right at that drone and jam that drone without interfering with anyone else," Harris said.

On Monday, drones allegedly hampered wildfire suppression efforts in the Saddle Fire in Washington County.

“This is an attack on the safety and wellbeing of our flight crews and our aircraft,” said Chris Henrie, the Saddle Fire incident commander. “News articles, videos, social media posts, flyers, posters ... our message isn’t getting out to the right people. This stopped a significant effort to protect the residents of Pine Valley and could have killed our flight crew.”

Most drones when they lose connection with their pilot will return to the take off position. Firefighters need them out of the sky.

"A drone could easily disable the pilot’s ability to control the aircraft and cause a crash,” said state fire information officer Jason Curry.

Drones do not only put the lives of pilots at risk, grounding aerial water dumps squanders tens of thousands of dollars.

"These activities are driving up the cost of wildfire," Curry said.

A radar system like Spotter RF costs from $50,000 to $150,000, depending on the radar range. The cheapest solution is for drone operators to follow the law.

"First and foremost we are counting on the public to be cooperative and to be wise about what they're doing out there," Curry said.

Right now this radar is used to provide protection around substations, power plants and water systems. The FCC is also starting a pilot program to examine different technologies for detecting, tracking and responding to the threat of drones.

To learn more about responsible drone flying, visit knowbeforeyoufly.org.

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