A law passed this weekend in Utah will allow law enforcement to shoot down or jam drones perceived to be flying too close to wildfires.
According to the Associated Press, Utah governor Gary Herbert (R) signed eight bills after a special session of the Utah Legislature, among them the bill that will allow for the ‘neutralization’ of drones.
The AP also reports that drones in Utah have gotten between wildfires and the people working to put them out three different times in the past week alone. One drone was also spotted five times over the same fire. Previously, drone pilots in Utah could be fined for flying drones near wildfires. California made its first arrest of a drone pilot who took video of a wildfire on Friday, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Drone pilots cruising wildfires for pictures or out of curiosity could cause catastrophic damage if their machines get in the way of a firefighting airplane or helicopter. The U.S. Interior Department is working on an app that can notify drone pilots of wildfires and the flight restrictions placed on them.
The Utah law doesn’t specify how exactly the drones could be neutralized. Technically, it allows firefighters and law enforcement to shoot down drones that may be interfering with the scene of a fire. However, Senator Evan Vickers, the co-sponsor of the law, said that it’s unlikely that will happen – it’s simply too difficult to target the small drones. Technology that can jam signals to bring the drones down is anticipated to be a more effective way of dealing with these unwanted spectators. Various private companies and non-profit organizations are working on jammers.
Utah State Forester Brian Cottom said that the state will work with law enforcement in order to determine what method is preferable.
“There are plenty of technology options out there … like everybody in the country, I think we’re trying to figure out the best way to deal with this,” he said.
Filed Under: Industry regulations