Governor signs safety restriction on drones for increased wildfire protection

drone

Gov. Gary R. Herbert signed a bill Sunday that enhanced penalties for operating drones in flight restriction areas during wildfires and allows law enforcement officers to neutralize drones in certain cases. The measure came after drones interfered with fire suppression efforts this summer on multiple occasions.

“Public safety has always been my top priority and this new law will allow us to more effectively fight wildfires,” Gov. Herbert said. “We are not going to tolerate reckless drone interference during wildfire season. With this law, Utah has taken the necessary precautions to protect our emergency management personnel and prevent additional interference that compromises public safety.”

Earlier this summer, five drones interfered with a state aircraft sent to contain a small wildfire in Washington County. The aircraft ultimately had to be grounded, slowing emergency response efforts and costing taxpayers millions more dollars.

Under the new law, the maximum fine for operating a drone near an emergency aircraft and causing it to crash has increased to $15,000 with possible imprisonment. Authorities will also be able to disable or take control of drones in flight restriction areas when necessary.

The governor signed all eight bills passed by the Utah State Legislature during the July special session. For a complete list, see the table below.

Bill Number Bill Name Bill Sponsor
H.B. 3001 Tax Credit Review Amendments Rep. Jeremy Peterson
H.B. 3002 State Fair Park Amendments Rep. Sandra Hollins
H.B. 3003 Unmanned Aircraft Amendments Rep. Don Ipson
H.B. 3004 Criminal Justice Reinvestment Amendments Rep. Eric Hutchings
S.B. 3001 Controlled Substance Database Modifications Sen. Todd Weiler
S.B. 3002 Economic Development Revisions Sen. Curt Bramble
S.B. 3003 Judicial Nominating Commissions – Amendments Sen. Pete Knudson
S.B. 3004 Continuing Care Retirement Community Amendments Sen. Deidre Henderson

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