WANTED: $75,000 reward posted for drone operators who flew UAVs over California wildfires

by Gannon Burgett

posted Wednesday, July 29, 2015 at 5:58 PM EDT

Over the past two months, on three separate occasions, drones have delayed firefighting efforts in California’s San Bernardino County, where wildfires have been a weekly occurrence as of late.

In response, San Bernardino County Supervisors have announced they are offering $75,000 in total rewards to anyone who comes forward with information on the drones or operators in these three instances – $25,000 for each fire.

The three instances occurred on June 12th, July 12th and July 17th. In every instance, low-flying aircraft were severely delayed or grounded due to one or more drones being in the area. These delays let the fires grow much more than they otherwise would have, as U.S. Forest Service officials prohibit any aircraft from dropping fire retardant over an area where drones are present due to the increased risk of coming in contact with the aircraft, firefighters and pilots.

Below is a news report from CBS talking about the third instance:

As it stands, first responders, including police and firefighters, are unauthorized to shoot down an unmanned aerial vehicle for any reason, as they are still considered an aircraft. A proposed law is looking to change that though, to let first responders take down drones if they are interfering with an emergency.

Two other laws are looking to make it illegal to fly a drone over wildfires. The first law would charge operators with a misdemeanor and up to $2,000 in fines for flying over a wildfire. The second, introduced by U.S. Rep. Paul Cook (R), would make it a federal offense, punishable by fines and upwards of five years in prison.

All in all, these instances and proposed laws make it more clear than ever that, while you’re certainly allowed to fly your drone, it needs to be done responsibly.

(via LA Times)