Dem asks FAA to block drones from interfering with firefighters

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A Democratic lawmaker is asking the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to make it harder for commercial and hobbyist drone pilots to interfere with emergency response operations.

“First responders must have the ability to address wildfire activities quickly and be uninhibited by unforeseen circumstances, such as a civilian flying their commercial drone in the vicinity,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) in a letter he circulated among members of the California delegation.

{mosads}“Not only do these drones put first responder pilots’ lives at risk, they also prevent these firefighters from helping to contain wildfires and put the lives of ordinary citizens at risk.”

In particular, Schiff is asking the FAA to make anti-interference measures part of forthcoming rules designed to govern the use of small drones.

“Among the steps that we believe should be considered is the possibility of requiring technological measures, such as ‘geo-fencing,’ in commercially available drones that prevent them from being flown within a geographic area where they are likely to interfere with firefighting activities,” the letter says, while also mentioning educating drone operators on the dangers of being in a restricted area.

The letter is a response, in part, to reports in June of firefighters in California who were not able to respond to a wildfire from the air because of commercial drones. Federal officials told the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday that unmanned vehicles had grounded firefighters’ aircraft six times in the previous three weeks.

That story also prompted legislation in the state that would give firefighters immunity if they damage a drone that’s interfering with an emergency response.

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