CO legislators introduce bill to make flying drones over wildfires a felony

Posted at 9:49 AM, Jun 28, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-28 11:49:46-04

Flying drones over wildfires could soon be a felony in the state of Colorado.

Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO), Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Representative Scott Tipton (R-CO) announced Wednesday that they have introduced legislation to change laws regarding drones and wildfires.

The Securing Airspace for Emergency Responders (SAFER) Act would make the unauthorized use of an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) over a wildfire a felony in the state of Colorado. The legislation has been introduced in both the House and Senate.

“I’ve heard firsthand from the men and women fighting fires in Colorado about the problems and risks they encounter with unauthorized drones flying over wildfires,” said Senator Gardner. “It puts the lives of firefighting personnel at risk and enhances the threat to public safety by causing the grounding of aerial firefighting assets because the airspace over a fire isn’t secure. We need to put a stop to this and the SAFER Act can help do that by making it a federal felony to fly unauthorized drones over wildfires.”

During many of the recent fires across Colorado, emergency responders have had problems with members of the public flying drones over wildfires. In some instances, the civilian drones have caused emergency crews to ground fire fighting aircraft due to the risk created by the unauthorized drones in the air space.

“When managing wildfires, the last thing firefighters should have to worry about is interference from unauthorized drones,” Bennet said. “Coloradans understand the risks that recreational drone activity creates for our communities, and Senator Gardner, Congressman Tipton, and I will work to prohibit this unauthorized drone use to help our first responders do their jobs.”