As wildfires scorched sections of California Interstate I-15 last week, firefighters found themselves hamstrung and unable to deliver aerial water coverage for nearly 20 minutes because a couple of schmucks were flying their quadcopters directly overhead. In response, Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Glendale) and Senator Ted Gaines (R-El Dorado) have introduced Senate Bill 168. The bill would grant "immunity to any emergency responder who damages an unmanned aircraft in the course of firefighting, air ambulance, or search-and-rescue operations." The bill will also levy stiff fines and potentially even jail time for people whose UAVs inhibit an emergency response.
This isn't the first time that drones have caused havoc over wildfires in recent months. Aircraft couldn't take off to fight the Lake Fire last month and were similarly delayed by an errant drone hovering over the Mill Creek Canyon Fire on July 12th. "Drone operators are risking lives when they fly over an emergency situation," Assemblyman Gatto told KCAL 9. "Just because you have access to an expensive toy that can fly in a dangerous area that doesn't mean you should do it." The bill does not stipulate how firefighters would deal with offending drones. My guess: water cannon.
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