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Tags: Drones

California fire officials and FBI target illegal drones near wildfire emergencies


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The Los Angeles County Fire Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Los Angeles field office are working together in a first-of-its-kind drone deterrent program to target drones near wildfire emergencies and get them out of the sky.

During a wildfire, firefighters often attack a blaze from the sky using sending in fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters to drop water and fire retardant to impede a fire’s progress. If an unauthorised drone flies into an emergency response zone, the aerial assault comes to a standstill.

“The main reason they have to avert those drones is we have no idea what the intention is of the operator,” said Capt. David Laub of the Los Angeles County Fire Department, who told CNN that they have had cases of drones buzzing just over firefighters’ heads, posing myriad hazards to its personnel and aircraft.

Through the new partnership, the officials say offending drones are identified and located in about 30 seconds of taking to the air. “When the detection equipment finds the drone and identifies the operator’s location, we can very rapidly get that information to a ground intercept team who can then go make contact with that drone operator and essentially get them to stop flying that drone,” said James Peaco III, the weapons of mass destruction coordinator for the FBI’s Los Angeles field office.

Using a special sensor the team can set up a boundary as large or as small as desired and be alerted if a drone flies into that area, then obtaining precise details such as elevation, direction, speed as well as where the drone took off from and where the controller is currently standing.

“The first thing we do is order them to bring the drone back, explain to him that there’s a wildfire and flying that drone during a wildland fire is actually a federal felony,” Peaco said, adding that violators fall into three categories: clueless, careless and criminal.

“If it’s just clueless or careless, we’ll either issue a citation or even just warn them off and tell them not to do it,” he continued. “If they’ve done something very egregious and really interrupted operations or they refuse to comply, then we have federal felony charges that we can apply to the situation.”

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