Multi-agency Drone Process Pressure Deploys within the Aftermath of California Wildfires – Drones Information


A multi-agency public safety drone team task force has provided local agencies and residents affected by California forest fires with high-resolution aerial images of damaged areas. GeoAcuity, a geospatial consulting firm, works with law enforcement UAS teams to quickly process and create interactive maps from these critical UAS datasets. The teams recently returned from back-to-back deployments for the company
North complex and CZU complex fires. Public maps and video tutorials can be viewed.

The 2020 wildfire season was devastating for the west coast of the United States, especially California. Historically large fires triggered by dry thunderstorms, hot weather and drought conditions resulted in the tragic loss of thousands of homes and dozens of lives.

For the past few weeks, a task force made up of UAS (or drone) law enforcement teams has been deployed on consecutive fires in Northern California. At the request of local district authorities, the UAS endeavored to quickly document and visualize the damaged areas. The task force is led by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office and includes UAS teams from Contra Costa County and the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office and San
Leandro and Stockton Police Departments.

While rogue drones have a bad rap for hampering forest fire efforts, this UAS task force is a managed response that is coordinated directly with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and CAL FIRE flight operations to safely access and in these restricted airspace areas to operate this. In many cases, UAS are able to fly and collect valuable post-incident images, while manned aircraft associated with fire-fighting measures are grounded due to poor visibility.

With up to 15 pilots flying at the same time, these missions require considerable coordination and generate an enormous amount of images. GeoAcuity, a full-service geospatial consultancy, led the pre- and post-flight coordination efforts, as well as the data collection and provisioning of these events. Your field service team works with law enforcement UAS teams to assist and track data collection across the fire zone.

All photos and videos are then transferred to interactive geospatial web applications and delivered to the requesting agencies and ultimately to the public.

Finished data products are typically delivered within 24 to 48 hours of the drones landing, often while residents remain evacuated from the affected areas. Products include high-resolution 2D maps, 3D models, 360 panoramas and georeferenced videos. Video tutorials will also be created to educate non-technical users about the full functionality of the images and how to navigate the web map applications provided.

“The GeoAcuity team is excited to have the opportunity to support these public safety efforts. Our primary focus is always on the authorities and people affected by these fires, and we work hard to ensure that the images captured by the UAS law enforcement teams are quickly provided after the disaster. “Says Dr. Jason Knowles, CEO of GeoAcuity

The Butte County and Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Offices have publicly released the drone map layers for the North Complex Fire and the CZU Complex Fire. Their offices should be contacted for questions about the drone efforts. E-mail [email protected] for technical questions about data processing and GIS layers.

Map layers are best viewed on a desktop computer through a mobile device.
Complex fire of the CZU (Santa Cruz Mountains)
 360-degree panorama map:
 Before / after swipe map:

North Complex Fire – Berry Creek
 360 panorama map:
 Before / after swipe map:
 Survae video maps of main roads:

For more information on GeoAcuity, please visit Interview requests can be made to [email protected]

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