Up to five drones were spotted over the Cajon Pass wildfire in Southern California. These remotely controlled drones hindered the response of firefighting planes sent to put out the fire that raged along Interstate 15. According to a U.S. Forestry Service spokesman, this was the fourth time drones interfered with firefighting efforts in the past month. In some of these instances, the planes had to land or divert their flight plan until the drones had left the area.
The wildfire that started in the Baldy Mesa area quickly expanded to 3,500 acres and jumped onto the southbound lane of Interstate 15 destroying 20 vehicles and damaging 10 more.
Drones are more sophisticated than ever before. Unlike older-model, remote-controlled toy helicopters and planes, the latest models can fly a large distance, take pictures, and be controlled by several mobile devices. Parrot’s AR Drone 2.0 features four rotors, and it is equipped with a 720p HD camera that can stream live video directly to your smartphone. This drone is controlled by an application that you can download onto compatible smartphones. Take-off, land, hover, and flip in the air with a single touch on the smartphone’s screen. In addition to iOS and Android devices, this drone is controllable from a Windows 8 PC or tablet, NVIDIA Shield, and the innovative Myo armband. You can also control it with the futuristic Carl Zeiss cinemizer OLED video glasses.
Officials from the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors are looking into the legality of drones flying over wildfires. Specifically, they are focusing on illegal drone operators that endanger the safety of citizens. It would be considered a misdemanor for interfering with firefighting efforts and the fine is $1,000.
There is a federal bill that deals with drone activity. The Wildfire Airspace Protection Act of 2015, introduced by Rep. Paul Cook (R-Apple Valley), makes it a federal offense to fly a drone that interferes with firefighting efforts on federal lands. Read about it here: Southern California lawmakers: Keep civilian Drones Away From Fires