Legislation from California State Sen. Ted Gaines, R-El Dorado, that addresses liability concerns for first responders who damage drones has passed out of the Senate and is now headed to the Assembly.
S.B.168 seeks to grant civil immunity to any emergency responder who damages an unmanned aircraft in the course of firefighting, air ambulance or search-and-rescue operations. The legislation would also increase fines for drone use that interferes with firefighting and emergency responders.
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 – putting pilots, firefighters, civilians and property at unnecessary risk.
“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 that is deserving of punishment and condemnation,” he states. “I’m pleased that my colleagues agreed, and I look forward to Senate Bill 168’s continued support as it makes its way through the Assembly.”
Gaines says that although drones hold great promise for wildfire suppression and other emergency services when used properly by the appropriate agencies, he does not want rogue drones to interfere with the most effective response to time-sensitive crises.
“First, I want everyone to know that flying drones in these areas is dangerous 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 says. “But this penalty will help ensure our skies are safe. People can replace drones, but we can’t replace a life. Public safety should be our absolute No. 1 priority.”