With the recent examples of hobby drones interfering with helicopters and air tankers that are flying over wildfires in southern California and other locations, the San Bernardino County Supervisors will consider on Tuesday a measure that would set aside $75,000 in funds that could be used to offer rewards to tipsters who turn in the individuals flying the small aircraft. According to the San Bernardino Sun, if the measure passes, $25,000 would be available for rewards related to three recent fires where firefighting aircraft had to be temporarily grounded — the Lake, Mill 2, and North Fires.
Helicopters and air tankers cannot fly in an area where drones have been spotted, due to the potential for collisions that could damage or cause the crash of the larger aircraft.
Currently drone users can be ordered to pay a fine up to a $1,000 under the broad statute of interfering with firefighting efforts. Other laws are under consideration in Congress and the California legislature that would substantially increase the penalties for rogue drone operators.
Before the July 17th North Fire crossed Interstate 15 trapping scores of vehicles and burning 22 of them, drones caused the grounding of firefighting aircraft working on the fire. Some have wondered if the aircraft had not been grounded, would they have been able to prevent the fire from creating the Carmegeddon on the Interstate where drivers had to abandon their cars and run for their lives.