Working to ensure public safety

San Diego Gas and Electric puts a premium on being prepared for emergency situations and that includes being ready to respond at a moment’s notice with the Erickson Aircrane “SkyMaverick” and the Black Hawk helicopter to increased wildfire risk that comes with Santa Ana winds, hot weather and dry conditions. Both air assists are equipped to deliver a knockout punch to fires by making accurate drops in rugged, hard to reach terrain.




The Erickson Aircrane, “SkyMaverick” is a major tool in our firefighting arsenal and has the capacity to carry 2,650 gallons of water or fire suppressant – equivalent to five fire engines – and can be airborne within 15 minutes. Stationed at Gillespie Field in El Cajon, the Aircrane is available for dispatch by CAL FIRE year-round to help fight fires in San Diego and Southern Orange County and is the largest water-dropping helitanker in the country. The Aircrane even has its own Twitter channel, @SkyMaverickSDGE, where you can get up updates on its whereabouts.

UH-60 Black Hawk Helicopter

In 2019 the company unveiled a second aerial firefighting asset, the UH-60 Black Hawk Helicopter, to help ensure public safety. The Black Hawk is available 365 days a year, has been contracted for year-round, rapid response dispatch by CAL FIRE and can fly up to 140 mph with a tank of water while en route to a fire. It holds 850 gallons of water and refills in 45 seconds.

Blackhawk helicopter


Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) program

In 2014, SDG&E became one of the first utilities in the nation to receive clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration to begin testing UAS for research, development and training. Since then, we have deployed drones for many uses to ensure safe and reliable service during wildfires, storms and other emergencies. The versatility of drones provides field crews with eyes in the sky to improve inspections of electric and gas lines, particularly in areas that are off-limits to helicopters or difficult to access by other means.

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Benefits of UAS technology

A UAS, or drone, gives ground-based operators a bird’s eye view of power lines, vegetation, construction projects and wildfires – all without deploying work crews or heavy equipment. They can save time, reduce risk to workers, and avoid environmentally sensitive habitat. Plus, they’re battery-operated for zero emissions.

Did you know?

SDG&E was the first utility in the nation granted approval by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to research, test and train flight crews on UAS.

Since 2014, we’ve deployed drones to:

  • Conduct aerial inspections of electric and gas facilities, including emergency response damage assessments.
  • Pinpoint the causes of power outages.
  • Access infrastructure in remote areas that are difficult for ground crews or helicopters to reach.
  • Help string cable in a rugged area.
  • Check vegetation management and construction work done by third parties.
  • Monitor wildfires.
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SDG&E Drone Program Fact Sheet
SDG&E Drone Program Fact Sheet
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We’re enhancing and expanding our efforts to reduce wildfire risk and taking every possible step to ensure that our customers and communities are safe--during wildfire season and every season.
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Learn more about the history and progress of SDG&E’s Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) program in the following news releases.