Assemblymember Freddie Rodriguez today introduced AB 1680 to clarify that drones interfering with the duties of an emergency responder is a crime.
"As the popularity of commercialized drones increases, so does the danger they pose to first responders," said Rodriguez. "We need to send a clear message to the public that interfering with emergency responders in any way, including flying a drone in the vicinity of an emergency situation, is not ok and is putting public safety at risk."
Existing law makes interfering with the duties of a police officer, firefighter or emergency medical services provider a misdemeanor punishable by 6 months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. AB 1680 clarifies that flying a drone in a way that interferes with the duty of an emergency responder is a violation of existing law.
The proliferation of commercial drones is rapidly becoming a hazard. The Consumer Electronics Association has estimated that hobbyists will buy 700,000 of the remote-controlled aircraft in the United States this year, a 63 percent increase from 2014.
Last year, several high profile incidents emphasized the dangers irresponsible drone use poses to emergency responders. A plane dropping retardant on a fire near San Bernardino, California, came within about 500 feet of a drone on June 24. Another pilot soon came within the same distance of a second drone, forcing the grounding of four firefighting aircraft for 2 1/2 hours.
In July 2015, the sighting of five drones in the area of a wildfire that closed Interstate 15 in Southern California and destroyed numerous vehicles grounded firefighting aircraft for 20 minutes. Another firefighting helicopter carrying 7 firefighters in Northern California had to take sudden evasive action and narrowly avoided a collision with a drone only 10 feet from his windshield.