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Managing the Land (Fire)

Science and Technology (Fire)














Lead plane Bravo 7 leads an airtanker  retardant drop. Photo by Kari Greer

The Forest Service uses tools in the air to manage fire on the ground.


Planes and helicopters are critical tools in managing wildland fire. Although aircraft are often used to fight wildfires, aircraft alone cannot put them out. Firefighters rely on planes and helicopters to:

  • Deliver equipment and supplies.
  • Deploy smokejumpers and rappellers to a fire.
  • Transport firefighters.
  • Provide reconnaissance of new fires, fire locations, and fire behavior.
  • Drop fire retardant or water to slow down a fire so firefighters can contain it.
  • Ignite prescribed fires.
Unmanned Aircraft Systems

UAS performing bridge inspection in Alaska.

The U.S. Forest Service is highly interested in new technologies and believes there is potential to fly Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) to support a host of natural resource management activities, including forest health protection, wildfire suppression, research, recreational impacts, and law enforcement.

In addtion, other federal, state and local agencies; researchers; businesses; members of the public; and others are interested in flying UAS on National Forest System lands for a variety of purposes. More



Photo of three airplanes.  A large airtanker, Smokejumper airacraft, and an infrared aircraft

Modular Airborne Firefighting Systems (MAFFS)


In the Spotlight:

Aviation Branch Chiefs:
  • Pilot Standardization
  • Aviation Operations
  • Airworthiness
  • Aviation Business Operations
  • Strategic Planner

Of Interest:

Aviation Safety Management Systems
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