City To Discuss Support For Regulating, Disarming Drones During Emergencies

Photo from the Wikimedia Commons.

In a fire season that has seen multiple cases of consumer drones interfering with fire fighting aircraft, Glendora officials are expected to show their support for state and federal legislation to criminalize reckless drone operators, regulating and disarming drones used recklessly near emergency scenes.

Senate Bill 167 would increase fines and possibly include jail time for drone operators whose aircraft interfere with emergency scenes. Companion bill SB 168 would grant immunity to emergency responders who destroy a drone that interfere during a response. S. 1608 aims to guard national airspace from consumer drones, while Federal bill H.R. 3025 would protect wildlife airspace and government aircraft from drone use.

The item was placed on the Sept. 8 City Council meeting agenda at the behest of Council member Mendel Thompson to discuss possible action and prohibition of drone activity that would interfere with firefighting efforts.

Current law makes it a misdemeanor to fly a drone and interfere with an emergency scene, with violators being given a $1,000 fine. SB 167, introduced by California Assemblymen Mike Gatto (D-Glendale) and Ted Gaines (R-El Dorado), would possibly provide up to six months in jail for drone operators convicted of interference and fines up to $5,000.

Companion legislation SB 168 would strengthen the Government Claims Act which prohibits liability against police and fire personnel who damage consumer drones during an emergency response.

S. 1608, The Consumer Drone Safety Act authored by State Senator Dianne Feinstein, would set limits on maximum altitude for consumer drones and restrictions near airports, aircraft flight paths, electrical and transportation infrastructures, residential areas and areas of large gatherings. Feinstein’s bill would also call for implementation of safety measures for consumer drones to avoid mid-air collisions and to allow them to be detected by pilots and air traffic controllers.

H. R. 3025, the Wildlife Airspace Protection Act authored by Congressman Paul Cook (R-CA 8th), would penalize any person who knowingly launches a drone near a wildfire and endangers government personnel, property and interferes with firefighting efforts with fines and imprisonment of up to five years.

City Staff recommends the Council should consider adopting resolutions supporting current legislation due to what it deems the “complexity of the issue, including jurisdictional and preemption issues regarding airspace regulation.”

The City Council meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Sept. 8 in the Council Chambers, 116 E. Foothill Blvd.