National Wildfire Coordinating Group

UAS Typing and Call Signs

UAS are built in a multitude of configurations which makes classification difficult. The following table should be used for reference only. Specific aircraft capabilities, performance, and typing should be discussed with the UAS Pilot, UAS Manager, or UAS Coordinator. For incident management purposes, the classification in Table 1 closely represents aircraft currently being utilized.

Table 1-UAS Types and Stats

Type Configuration Endurance Data Collection
Altitude (agl)
Max Range (miles) Typical Sensors*
1 Fixed-Wing
6-14 hrs.
EO/Mid Wave IR
High Quality IR
2 Fixed-Wing
1-6 hrs.

EO/Long Wave IR
Moderate Quality IR

3 Fixed-Wing
20-60 min.
20-60 min.
2,500 and Below
2,000 and Below
EO/IR Video and Stills
Moderate Quality IR
4 Fixed-Wing
Up to 30 min.
Up to 20 min.
1,200 and Below
1,200 and Below
EO/IR Video and Stills
Moderate Quaility IR

*Sensor payloads are variable but typically include daylight (electro-optical), infrared (IR), thermal, or mapping cameras. Type 1 and 2 UAS carry multiple camera types in a gimbaled configuration.

Note: Certain aircraft are specialized and will not fit this classification.

Additional current information can be accessed on the Interagency UAS website.

Operational Characteristics

  1. Type 1 and 2
    1. These aircraft will generally be operated by contractors and provide strategic situational awareness (SA) and incident mapping.
    2. They typically operate above all other incident aircraft.
    3. Communications are maintained with the UAS crew on the assigned Victor (AM) or air-to-ground (FM) frequencies.
    4. All Type 1 and 2 contract aircraft will be equipped with Mode C transponders.
    5. Typical aircraft are the Scan Eagle, Aerosonde, or Penguin C.
  2. Type 3 and 4
    1. These aircraft are generally agency operated and perform SA, mapping, and aerial ignition missions on/near the fireline or incident.
    2. Type 3 and 4 aircraft do not carry Mode C transponders or Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B).
    3. Communications are maintained with the UAS crew only on assigned FM frequencies.
    4. None are equipped with Automated Flight Following (AFF) equipment.
    5. Typical aircraft are less than 55lbs and can be easily carried by UAS pilots or in small vehicles.​

Call Signs

Unmanned Aircraft Systems Pilots (UASP) will follow established incident communications protocols and will make radio calls with the following information:

Unmanned Aircraft

  • Configuration (fixed-wing or rotor-wing).
  • Type.
  • Assigned aircraft number. ​

Call Sign Examples

  • Unmanned R41: Rotor-Wing, Type 4 UAS, Assigned number #1.
  • Unmanned F12: Fixed-Wing, Type 1 UAS, Assigned number #2.
  • Unmanned R23: Rotor-Wing, Type 2 UAS, Assigned number #3.
    Note: If a pilot switches aircraft between a Type 3 or Type 4 UAS, to maintain continuity of call signs, they will continue to use the original call sign. Change in aircraft configuration, rotor-wing to fixed-wing, should be discussed with aerial supervision and/or participating aircraft.





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