Drone got in helicopter's way as it fought a wildfire in Minnesota

The helicopter had to land while the drone was cleared from the area.
Publish date:

A privately-operated drone forced a helicopter to stop fighting a wildfire in Minnesota this past weekend.

The Minnesota Interagency Fire Center (MIFC) confirmed to BMTN that there was a "drone incursion" that forced the helicopter to land four miles northeast of Little Falls around 12:30 p.m. Saturday.

The drone was spotted by the pilot as he dropped liquid on the blaze below, at one point hovering above the helicopter.


– Massive wildfire in northwest Minnesota finally contained.

– Sign up for our daily newsletters

The pilot safely landed while the drone, which was possibly taking images of the fire, was cleared from air space. It resumed its fire suppression measures a short time later.

The drone presented a serious safety threat to those on board the helicopter, with MIFC experts saying an object the size of a quarter has the potential to destroy a turbine engine.

"Quite simply, if recreational drone users fly their unmanned system near a wildfire, then we can’t," a spokeswoman said. 

"This situation can potentially put the pilot, air crew and public at risk while increasing the threat of wildfire spread endangering lives, property and resources."

The drone operator hasn't been located, but fire officials are reminding users that it's illegal to fly drones near to firefighting aircraft.

Next Up


Minnesota still below average for wildfires

Minnesota officials have counted 997 wildfires in the state this year, surpassing 2011 by about 300 fires. But the average for the state is a little more than 1,500 wildfires, and in some years in recent decades Minnesota has had as many as 3,000 blazes.