The tragic partial collapse of a condominium complex in south Florida has resulted in the FAA issuing a temporary flight restriction, or TFR, for the airspace surrounding the disaster site.

Drones can be incredibly useful tools when disaster strikes. First responders can use them for near-instantaneous situational awareness, giving them a “big picture” of what’s taking place on the ground. Thermal sensors can (and have) helped detect survivors trapped in rubble. Plus, of course, much more.

Sometimes, unfortunately, disasters also attract pilots who want to take a look for themselves, or potentially to obtain footage to sell to news organizations (though a growing number of newsrooms now have someone on staff with Part 107 certification).

Drones and aircraft can interfere…

Those extra drones buzzing around? Or news helicopters? They’re the last thing first responders want.

As first responders pick their way through the rubble, any hope for survivors is rapidly diminishing. This kind of pancake collapse leaves few if any voids where a lucky person might be able to hold out. It’s tragic, but true.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department image via Wikimedia Commons

First responders are also flying their own drones (and, likely, helicopters) to further assess the situation. So it’s no surprise they want the airspace clear as they carry out the painstaking task of removing rubble and recovering human remains:

FAA issues TFR

With this disaster still unfolding, it’s no surprise the FAA has put restrictions in place on the airspace near the collapse site:

A closer look

If you clicked on the FAA’s link, it takes you to the Notice to Airmen (NOTAM), which details the specifics of the excluded airspace.

Image via FAA website

You can click through for the full NOTAM text. It makes it clear that the only aircraft operations under the direction of Miami Dade Fire Rescue are permitted in the zone:

DroneDJ‘s take

First off, this is a tremendously tragic incident. In the event some of our readers have a direct connection with any of the missing, our thoughts are with you. They’re also with the first responders, who face a thankless task in sifting through the rubble.

The FAA, obviously, issues these TFRs for a reason. And it’s in everyone’s interests – including drone pilots – to stay well clear of this area and obey the TFR. It’s also worth noting that those who violate the restriction could face hefty fines.

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