California Bill Lets On-The-Job Firefighters Take Out Drones

California Bill Lets On-The-Job Firefighters Take Out Drones

20 July 2015

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USA– A Southern California lawmaker co-introduced legislation in Sacramento Monday that would allow first-responders to disable or damage drones that interfere with emergency operations.

“Drone operators are risking lives when they fly over an emergency situation,” Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Glendale, said. “Just because you have access to an expensive toy that can fly in a dangerous area that doesn’t mean you should do it.”

Senate Bill 168, introduced by Gatto and Sen. Ted Gaines, R-El Dorado, would grant “immunity to any emergency responder who damages an unmanned aircraft in the course of firefighting, air ambulance, or search-and-rescue operations.”

Los Angeles Fire Inspector David Dantic declined to comment on specific legislation, but said his agency’s aircraft cannot operate safely if a drone is in the same airspace.

Firefighting efforts from the air have been hampered by the presence of drones at as many as three times in the past month. Firefighting aircraft were grounded near Big Bear Lake due to a drone near last month’s Lake Fire, while another drone delayed efforts to battle a blaze in Mill Creek Canyon for at least 20 minutes on July 12.

Five drones in the air also delayed water drops on the I-15 in the Cajon Pass Friday, when at least 20 vehicles were destroyed by a brush fire burning on both sides of the freeway.

Gatto and Gaines also teamed up on companion legislation: SB 167, which would increase fines and introduce the possibility of jail time for drone use that interferes with firefighting efforts.

“We have ever-emerging technologies that can disrupt and disable a nuisance drone,” Gatto said. “Our emergency response personnel shouldn’t be at risk when coming to the aid of our communities.”

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