In the original Terminator movie the automated Skynet defense system which began destroying humans when its artificial intelligence saw humans as a threat to its operation went on-line on August 4, 1997. On August 4, 2015, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors endorsed action against those who threaten human lives and property by using automated drone aircraft when that airspace is needed for aerial firefighting operations.
A 5-0 vote provided formal support for state and Federal legislation, which would establish specific penalties for drone interference with firefighting. Senate Bill 167 stipulates a minimum $200 fine and a maximum $2,000 fine for interference with firefighting aircraft with a $5,000 fine and imprisonment for up to six months for intentional or reckless operation and was introduced by El Dorado Hills legislator Ted Gaines. House Resolution 3025 was introduced on July 10 by Congressman Paul Cook of Yucca Valley, California, and calls for a prison term of up to five years and an unspecified fine for operation of a drone, which interferes with efforts to protect Federal property from wildfire damage.
“I hope that both the state and the Federal government put some teeth in this,” said Supervisor Bill Horn. “I just want to make the penalties more strict.”
The Lake Fire in San Bernardino County began June 17. Drone airplanes taking photographs were in the same airspace needed by firefighting aircraft. “They could not bring their equipment in and make the air drops just because of the drones,” Horn said.
“They weren’t able to immediately respond,” said Supervisor Ron Roberts. “It’s not what you want to see happen.”
The aerial firefighting was halted due to the presence of the drones. The fire spread, eventually burning more than 31,000 acres and destroying a residence and three other structures. Six firefighters on the ground were injured from the fire.
“They’re interfering with firefighting equipment. They’re endangering lives and property,” Horn said. “We have to ground the aircraft.” rn noted that a drone could hit a firefighting plane’s propeller or be sucked into a plane’s jet engine at the expense of the engine’s function. “It’s not only the safety of the people on the ground, but it’s for the pilots,” he said.
“Seconds count when it comes to fighting a fire,” said Supervisor Dianne Jacob.
“We need that equipment to put the fire out,” Horn said. “I certainly wouldn’t want a drone interfering with the air drop.”
The recent implementation of drone aircraft has led to situations not covered by Federal Aviation Administration regulations. “It’s a new technology, but it’s something that’s in the air,” Horn said.
“Anything that interferes with firefighting efforts deserves consequences,” Jacob said. “These individuals, irresponsible individuals, should be punished.”