By Keith Laing
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) has filed legislation to make “reckless” drone flights near restricted airspace a crime.
The measure, known as the SAFE DRONE Act, would make operating a drone within two miles of a restricted airspace a misdemeanor offense.
Boxer said the measure would reduce the number of drone flights that interfere with commercial flights and efforts to combat wildfires.
“Our firefighters and airplane pilots should be focused on keeping the public safe — not worrying about unauthorized drones that recklessly interfere with their jobs,” she said in a statement.
The measure comes after Federal Aviation Administration has said recently that the number of drone sightings that have been reported by airline pilots has risen from 238 in all of 2014 to 650 in the first half of this year.
Drone users have bristled at the FAA’s method for calculating the number of close callsbetween the devices and commercial airplanes, but Boxer’s said there have been a “series of recent incidents where reckless drone operators have forced firefighting agencies to suspend all air operations out of concern for the safety of the pilots and people on the ground.
“Nationwide, the U.S. Forest Service has identified 13 different instances this year where drones interfered with firefighting efforts, up from only four the previous year,” Boxer’s office said. “This year in California, there have been five cases where drones have hindered firefighting efforts.”
The California Democrat’s office said the measure “would allow federal, state, or local agencies and firefighters to use drones in restricted airspace for legitimate purposes, such as surveying the size of a fire.”