Calif. Bill on First-Responder Liability for Drone Damage Heads to Governor

A bill from California State Sen. Ted Gaines, R-El Dorado, that addresses liability concerns for first responders who damage drones has passed out of the Assembly Committee on Privacy and Consumer Protection, off the Assembly floor, and is now headed to Gov. Jerry Brown.

According to Gaines, S.B.168 would increase fines for drone use that interferes with firefighting and emergency responders. The bill also 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.

Gaines says 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,” says the senator. “I’m pleased that my Assembly colleagues agreed, and I am hopeful for the governor’s support of this critical bill.”

The senator says he believes drones hold great promise for wildfire suppression and other emergency services when used properly by the appropriate agencies but does not want rogue drones to interfere with the most effective response to time-sensitive crises.


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