California State Sen. Ted Gaines, R-El Dorado, says his legislation granting civil immunity to emergency responders who damage unmanned aircraft has passed out of both houses and is now headed to Gov. Jerry Brown.
According to the senator, S.B.807 would protect forests, property and the lives of citizens, firefighters and emergency personnel from drone interference.
“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,” says Gaines. “I’m pleased that my legislative colleagues agreed, and I am hopeful for the governor’s support of this critical bill.”
The bill grants civil immunity to any emergency responder who damages a drone in the course of firefighting, air ambulance or search-and-rescue operations. According to Gaines, the bill stems from “alarming reports” of private, unauthorized drones causing mission-critical aircraft to be grounded during firefighting and medical response operations – thus putting pilots, firefighters, civilians and property at unnecessary risk.
Gaines notes that drones hold great promise for wildfire suppression and other emergency services when used properly by public safety, but he does not want rogue drones to interfere with the most effective response to time-sensitive crises.
“We are in the middle of California’s dangerous wildfire season, and I want everyone to know that interfering with firefighting or other emergency activities is reckless and wrong. Let’s get the word out as far and wide as we can – immediately – to help keep our people and emergency personnel safe,” he adds. “This bill will help ensure our skies are protected. People can replace drones, but we can’t replace a life. Public safety should be our absolute No. 1 priority.”
The senator introduced a similar bill last year – S.B.168 – that was ultimately vetoed by Brown.