California Lawmakers are tackling the bothersome issue of rogue drones flying in wildfire zones. They are proposing legislation that could permit California firefighters to take out rogue drones if these are interfering with their efforts.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has repeatedly underlined the fact that drones have repeatedly hampered firefighting aircrafts from efficiently dealing with blazes sweeping through Southern California. At least twice in the last month, first during the Cajon Pass fire and again during the San Bernardino Mountains fire, drones disrupted firefighting efforts. And these situations aren’t singular.
As such, Southern Californian legislators are sponsoring the two bills focused on curbing irresponsible drone usage. The first bill, SB 167, proposes penalty fine increases for those flying drones in wildfire areas. SB 168, on the other hand, aims to make public safety agencies no longer liable for any damages sustained by rogue drones if they were destroyed during emergency situations.
But the bills have problems of their own. On the one hand, there’s the matter of penalty fines. The current $1,000 fine for drone-related offences is already hefty, yet it seems that drone owners aren’t bothered. So there’s a high likelihood that their behaviour will continue even if these fines are increased.
And even if drone users would fear several thousands of dollars’ worth of fines, who exactly is the operator enforcing the law?
SB 168, on the other hand, raises the issue of drone-related-injuries and fires. While firefighters may be free to dispose of drones interfering with their activities, causing a drone to crash, for instance, may generate an independent fire issue. And since most drones don’t include the technology that would permit firefighters to jam their frequencies and force a safe landing, it seems unlikely that firefighters will be able to safely manoeuvre these devices out of their way.
The two lawmakers responsible for the bills, Republican Sen. Ted Gaines and his Democratic counterpart Mike Gatto hope to solve these issues in the future so as to ensure the best conditions for firefighters to battle the flames.
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