DRONES: Limits don’t fly with Brown

DRONES: Limits don’t fly with Brown

04 October 2015

published by www.pe.com

USA– Public safety agencies will have to rely on “If you fly, we can’t” education campaigns and existing restrictions for hobbyists’ unmanned aircraft as Gov. Jerry Brown on Saturday, Oct. 3, vetoed bills aimed at controlling drone operations.

A flurry of legislation was proposed this year as more incidents came to light of drones interfering with air-tanker flights intended to drop fire retardant on blazing wildfires. Once spotted, the activity grounded or put the planes in a holding pattern until law enforcement could track down operators.

The three bills related to drones were sponsored by Sen. Ted Gaines, R-El Dorado. “To think that someone would interfere with firefighting or emergency response situations to get a sneak peek or to post a drone video on YouTube is an outrage that is deserving of punishment and condemnation,” Gaines said in a news release last month.

Brown said the state’s criminal code has more than 5,000 laws on the books, and that adding more crimes “creates increasing complexity without commensurate benefit.”

One of Gaines’ bills would have given firefighters immunity for disabling hobbyist drones flying over emergency situations. The other two addressed criminalizing flights over public schools when schools are in session, with few exceptions, and flights over prisons or jails.

In Inland Southern California, drones have been spotted over at least four wildfires this season, including the massive Lake fire in the San Bernardino National Forest and the North fire along I-15 in the Cajon Pass that scorched vehicles abandoned when their drivers fled to safety. Each time, the sighting temporarily grounded helicopters or air tankers, or put them in a holding pattern to respond.

“If we see a drone, we will pull our aircraft off. It’s too dangerous in the airspace,” Scott McLean, a Cal Fire spokesman, said by phone. Helicopters and fixed-wing planes have a lot of moving parts that could be damaged quickly, he said.

The public education campaign with the “If you fly, we can’t” message came out this year, as well as the Federal Aviation Administration partnering with industry associations to promote existing safety guidelines. FAA guidelines dictate flights below 400 feet away from surrounding obstacles, in view of the operator at all times and at least 5 miles from airports unless the operator is in contact with a control tower beforehand.

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