California lawmakers introduce bills aimed at drones

Lawmakers in California have introduced bills aimed at the growing proliferation of drones over wildfires. There were reports that five unmanned aerial vehicles temporarily shut down aviation operations on the North Fire in southern California, and it has previously been a problem at several other fires in the last year.

Below is an excerpt from the San Bernardino Sun:

…One state bill, SB167, would increase fines and make jail time possible for drone use that interferes with firefighting efforts.

And on Monday, Republican state Sen. Ted Gaines of El Dorado and Democratic Assemblyman Mike Gatto of Glendale also announced SB168, which would grant immunity to emergency responders who damage drones during firefighting or rescue operations.

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8 thoughts on “California lawmakers introduce bills aimed at drones”

  1. I don’t know much about these small drones, so am I correct in that most of the drones the public can buy only have about 1/2 mile range from the operator. How hard can it be to catch these people flying them? Obviously it depends where the fire is, but if there’s some guy standing around with a box and an antenna sticking out of it, he’s probably the guy you want. Get the news media to tell the public to turn these people in! Have to give the law makers credit for jumping on this issue quickly. Air Tanker pilots have enough to think about while flying against a fire, they surely don’t need to hit a plastic piece of junk!

  2. Joe,

    It depends on what model someone is flying. The newer DJI phantom has upgraded transmit and receive built into the landing gear and has a range of up to a mile. Some companies are able to add beefed up antennae’s that can transmit up to two miles. That, coupled with the ability to fly FPV (First Person View) would make it very hard to identify someone, especially if they were in an inconspicuous location.

    I am glad that there is more emphasis on trying to educate the public; and new laws will always need to meet the advances in technology, but I am concerned that the attention drones are getting will make it bad for us on the ground trying to gather intelligence. As a DIVS, having a field deployable resource that gives me eyes before air attack or a rotor is available is very useful.

    I know it will take time to develop procedures and protocols for using this in our environment, I just hope those in our industry don’t get a tainted view of the possibilities as a result of a few people who lack common sense and brains.


  3. as an RC enthusiast,it would be pretty simple to stay in your car while “watching” the fire and have a transmitter in your lap ,especially if you have the monitor or a cell phone,you dont need to stand on the edge of the fire with a big ox in your hands…i dont have a drone,but i do have a large scale M4A4 Sherman tank and a truck tractor trailer rc….and both have 3 inch long antennas on the transmitters which are 2.4 MHz.

    what if the state went to the manufacturers of these drones..made sure of the freq’s they use..then get a geek to design and implement a freq scrambler of sometime..mount it in the OV-10s and in lead planes,,heck even the tankers themselves ..the air attack OV-10s would just be jamming the freqs as the orbit,leads would jam whatever is in the line of the tanker drops.and in the tankers..if its a forward facing jammer…well if there is a drone out there…its going to drop to the ground…so if the operator is stupid enough to go after his downed drone…arrest him..the other issue,,jamming the freq is fine..but you would have to be able to disable the power IN the drone so it doesnt go wobbling out of control and cause more trouble….and our Military can do all this stuff..why cant they step in and “loan?” some older tech to the fire fighting community?…the above was for calfire ….i dont know about other states ops…they’d have to work it out as well?..

  4. It appears commercial technology to detect and counter drones is exploding (figuratively speaking). In a month or so since my last google search on this topic the number of products has gone from 1 or 2 to at least 6 drone detection systems, 2 of which appear to include countermeasures and/or operator locating capabilities (and that’s just on the first page of search results):
    The technology is there. The challenge is now for the responder community to adopt it effectively.

  5. As a tanker pilot I’m quite interested in safety over the fire, and the use of unmanned assets is something that should be taken seriously. That said, it’s incredible to me that this has never been a problem in the past, yet we’re seeing reports of aircraft grounded or turned back now, on a weekly basis. All of them coming out of California. Could it be any more clear that there’s a strong effort underway to make a statement here, to force legislation?

    I’m not anxious to run into an unmanned aircraft of any kind, over the fire, and I’m wholly in agreement that some control measures need to be put in place. What’s been going on, however, is so overtly political and contrived that it’s hard to take seriously. Not all over the west, not spread out over multiple seasons…all now, on a regular basis, and all in California. What an amazing coincidence. And now two articles of legislation. Color me shocked.

  6. Drones near or over fire incidents have been reported in states other than California; two states I know of are Arizona and Washington. High performance drones with HD cameras pretty much debuted over fires within the past year or so, so that may account for why you haven’t heard much about them in previous fire seasons.

    I don’t think efforts to control the use of privately owned drones over or near fires is overtly political or contrived, the danger of drones near fires is simple to understand and doesn’t require years of debate.

  7. These people who are flying drones near fires and air attack aircraft are just as idiotic as the people who have been shining lasers at commercial airlines. Unfortunately, there will always be some who don’t have any common sense and find ways to make new technology a problem. Higher powered lasers are already prohibited in many states now because of those “non-thinkers” of the danger they are causing. The drone issue is proceeding down the same road.

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