California Firefighters Might Shoot Down Drones

California Firefighters Might Shoot Down Drones

To help firefighters, the California State Assembly is considering giving them permission to take out drones in their way.

A bill being considered in the California Assembly would allow first responders to shoot drones out of the sky if they are hindering their job. This is in response to several incidents where drones hindered the efforts of firefighters and may have led to the death or injuries of people involved.

The most recent example of drones hindering firefighters came only last week when five civilian-flown drones disrupted efforts to fight a grass fire on I-15 at the Cajon Pass in southern California. The drones delayed the efforts to contain the fire by 20 minutes. The fire destroyed 20 vehicles and injured at least two people (some reports say as many as 30).

Currently, the fire is only about 50% contained, and has gone on to burn down area houses.

To be clear, no one is saying those 20 minutes specifically could have prevented any injury or property damage, but it seems obvious that if you slow down enough firefighting efforts, you’re eventually going to get someone killed. And maybe 20 minutes is enough to turn a big fire into a small fire. Maybe not with this fire, but with a future fire. There have been at least two other California incidents of drones slowing down fire responses.

The proposed legislation would allow first responders to “damage or disable drones” that are hindering their ability to do their job. A companion bill increases fines and possible jail time for interfering with fire departments. Obviously, the lawmakers’¬†hearts are in the right place here. No one would want to see someone get hurt or a house burned down so someone can get a great picture of the scene.

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

Here is the problem. The legislation basically sets up a situation where flaming wreckage is going to be falling form the sky. Routinely.

What the bill actually does is grant immunity to firefighters, air-ambulance, and search and rescue teams who damage a drone in the course of their duties. Well how is that going to happen?

There are only two ways I can think of to “damage” a flying drone — shoot it out of the sky or ram it out of the sky. Nothing could possibly go wrong with that plan, right?

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