Aug 27, 2013

Drones and Fighting Fires – A Bad Combination?

Attack drone in Torrance, CAOn a Southern California freeway, a fire engulfed tens of vehicles and kept on moving forward at a great pace. The firefighters were there to take over the fire but their efforts ended up in smoke when drones (quadcopters) were found flying in the vicinity of the fire. It was on Friday that firefighters were ready to put out the fire using their planes but soon it was found out that there were 5 drones flying in just the area where the firefighter planes had to perform their operations.

Cajon Pass connects Las Vegas to California and that’s where the fire started and it was moving on at great pace. Lee Beyer, the spokesperson for US Forest Service told media about the problems caused by drones. According to him the firefighting planes could not perform their operations for nearly half an hour until the flying region was cleared of the drones.

It has happened on multiple occasions that firefighters’ efforts were delayed to put out wildfire because of the drones. People are also divided into groups on whether the drones should be allowed to fly in the air or not. Some people want drones completely banned, others want a solution where they won’t be banned but they won’t cause any delays in firefighting operations. Some are more annoyed by the fact that quadcopters are labeled as drones.

Beyer also told media about a flying area for drones that is located very close to the area where the fire started. The closeness of that area also became a reason of flying drones in the vicinity of the fire.
Sources say that members of the ground crew of the firefighters tracked the operators of these drones and forcefully told them to shut down their UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles). However, pro-drone groups have talked about the issue on their online forums and stated that they immediately shut down their gadgets as soon as they were communicated.

Beyer said that it was no possible to fly firefighter planes when there were drones around because of the possibility that drones could hit the propellers of the planes and cause them to malfunction or come down on the ground. If the drone operators were flying their drones intentionally to halt the operations of the firefighters they could have been put behind bars for the act. However, no arrests were made because there were no such intentions involved.

The fire was big and there were nearly 1000 firefighters on the job to kill the fire that had already swallowed up 11 constructions in the area. The area that fire destroyed was around 35,000 acres. The scene on the freeway was a horrifying one as the drivers frantically left their vehicles and started running uphill to save their lives. An eye witness who was present at the scene, namely Allevato, said that everyone was going uphill and abandoning their vehicles.

Some people have given aggressive remarks after hearing the news even though drone operators who got news of the incident have clearly stated that the drones were within the legal area where they were supposed to fly. Various suggestions are coming from people on how to tackle the drones if such situations arise and many people think that they should be shot down. It must be understood here that drones are not as small as many people might imagine.

These drones can be as heavy as 30 to 40lbs and if such drones are shot in the air they can cause big accidents when they fall on the ground. Pro-drone individuals are worried about what the future would unfold for their favorite gadgets.

Michael Ehline is a prolific blogger on California and international tort law. He has been a guest on CNN, discussed in major news publications like Forbes, Circle of Legal Trust, Personal Injury Warriors, and International Cruise Victims. He has lobbied congress on behalf of injured consumers, served as a United States Marine, and won millions of dollars for his clients as a West Los Angeles injury attorney. This blog discusses Ehline's insights and musings on all aspects of negligence law as it relates to all things "accidents." Ehline can be reached at (213) 596-9642.