California offers $75,000 reward to catch drone pilots who impeded firefighters

By midian182
Jul 31, 2015
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  1. San Bernadino County officials are offering a total of $75,000 for information leading to the capture of drone pilots who obstructed firefighters as they worked to extinguish forest fires in three separate incidents. The unmanned crafts forced responders to ground the small air tankers that play a critical role in putting out fires; authorities say the delays directly resulted in more damage and destroyed property.

    In the latest incident, which took place earlier this month, five recreational hobby drones were encountered flying over the wildfire. Firefighter’s planes and helicopters were forced to circle the area and land for 20 minutes before the drones moved on. The delay allowed the fire to reach the Interstate 15 freeway where it set over 20 cars ablaze.

    "In the most recent fire, the North Fire, we saw cars and trucks burning on the freeway, we saw homes burn, and we saw families running for their lives," Jorge Ramos, chairman of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors, said in a statement. “We want to know who was flying drones, and we want them punished. Someone knows who they are, and there is $75,000 waiting for them."

    California officials say they will set up a phone hotline for people to call with information about the drone pilots. A $25,000 reward is on offer for information on three separate July incidents; drones were seen flying above the Lake Fire, Mill 2 Fire and the North Fire.

    Both county and state lawmakers are actively pursuing new legislation targeted at people who obstruct wildfire. San Bernardino District Attorney Mike Ramos warned that drone operators could be prosecuted for murder if the drones caused delays that led to deaths of any firefighters or civilians.

    Permalink to story.

  2. treetops

    treetops TS Evangelist Posts: 1,937   +157

    It was fox news trying to prove a point fox news style.
  3. Nima304

    Nima304 TS Guru Posts: 365   +81

    How exactly did the drones ground planes and helicopters?
  4. Pessimisticist

    Pessimisticist TS Rookie

    How challenging would it really have been to knock the drones out of the sky?
    learninmypc and mosu like this.
  5. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 2,428   +472

    I'm thinking, a piece of metal stuck in the helicopter or plane helix
  6. 9Nails

    9Nails TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,212   +174

    We assume, from the comfort of the Internet, that the drones are being flown by sane citizens trying to satisfy curiosity. But, what do we know? It could be some arsonist or terrorist trying to prove a point with a flying bomb. I'm guessing that when the drones are out in the same air space as the pilots they have to stay grounded to avoid consequences.
  7. Pessimisticist

    Pessimisticist TS Rookie

    Excuse my use of the word "knock" of course they wouldn't actually bump a drone with a helicopter, I was thinking more along the lines of drone duck hunt, but considering they were above a forest fire I geuss not much could be done by anyone the ground.
  8. davislane1

    davislane1 TS Evangelist Posts: 3,379   +2,167

    You can't fly the aircraft in air space with random drones in it. Some knucklehead drone pilot flies into an aircraft's flight path, winds up taking out an engine, you have a multimillion-dollar accident and loss of life on your hands. The aircraft were thus grounded to prevent such an accident.
  9. seefizzle

    seefizzle TS Addict Posts: 272   +138

    Seems far fetched.
  10. EClyde

    EClyde TS Maniac Posts: 624   +147

    What's your address. I am going to collect a reward. *******
  11. davislane1

    davislane1 TS Evangelist Posts: 3,379   +2,167

    Note that a drone is considerably more durable than a bird:

    Here's another one, that gives a better idea of what kind of damage a drone could do:

    Far fetched is the idea that aircraft are safe in the vicinity of drones. They aren't.
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2015
  12. kanehi

    kanehi TS Rookie Posts: 41   +6

    The drone is like a mouse stopping a stampede of elephants! They should have a way of knocking off or interrupting the radio frequency of drones so it can be rendered inoperable in an emergency like this.
    learninmypc and wiyosaya like this.
  13. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Maniac Posts: 939   +244

    Actually, it is not. Collisions with birds have been known to seriously damage multimillion dollar aircraft. In many ways, drones are more dangerous than the dolts who shine laser pointers at aircraft.
  14. tehxion

    tehxion TS Rookie Posts: 16   +7

    Aircraft, particularly helicopters fighting wild fires typically fly low and fast en route. When collecting water they fly only a few feet above the ground, we have all seen footage of helicopters scooping water out of peoples backyard pools. When dumping water they are flying at only 1000 feet, sometimes below that. A collision with a drone, be it in the fuselage, engine or blades is likely going to cause a mid air disaster.

    Wild fires are pretty spectacular and so I see the attraction to filming them. The drone operators probably don't have an appreciation for the danger they are causing to manned aircraft and impeding firefighting efforts.
    davislane1 likes this.
  15. Trillionsin

    Trillionsin TS Evangelist Posts: 1,270   +102

    Firefighters standard equip should now include some kind of weighted net gun that could potentially shoot them down (if they get close enough to cause issues, they might also be in range of said 'net gun')

    Development might cost more in the long run, but once they are standard equipt, it probably wont cost too much.

    Then it would be standard for any police/military/orotherwisegovermentofficials/whoever carry them around, they surely wouldnt cost 25k a piece. I dunno, random after midnight thought...
  16. Skidmarksdeluxe

    Skidmarksdeluxe TS Evangelist Posts: 6,341   +1,939

    I would've though fire fighter could knock those things out of the sky with the water jets from their hoses when they came in low enough to ogle.
  17. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 11,467   +1,760

    A net gun makes sense, until you really consider the physics of the encounter. A model is far more nimble than even a chopper, and even a light fixed wing craft takes up most of a mile to turn around. Plus, these planes are fully loaded, so aerial combat maneuvering is out of the question. (In other words, you can't stand the craft up on a wingtip, then yank full up elevator to get it going in the opposite direction).

    Plus, a net gun is more or less an "aerial taser", in that you only get one shot, and pray you don't miss

    The idea of the net, a shotgun, (assuming nobody is underneath the "combat zone"), came to me also. However I do believe, this is where you call in your local Naval Air Station, or Air Force Base. Let them put up one of their ECM craft, and jam them.

    Well, a duck in a jet intake can bring down an airliner. So are you suggesting they go and ram the stupid things?

    Maybe at the next fire, you can do a fly-along, and show them how it;'s done.
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2015
  18. MannerMauler

    MannerMauler TS Booster Posts: 97   +18

    The only way I could think of that the firefighters could do, with the helicopter, is to drop water on it or force/blow it down with the MASSIVE downforce they make.
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2015
  19. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Maniac Posts: 939   +244

    The more important thing is to get the water on the fire; if they drop their load on the drone, then they have effectively done just as well as not flying because the water does not make it where it is needed most - the fire.

    Firefighters should not have combat such outright insensitivity and scandalmongering. Personally, I would think that the people that fly these drones into such areas would have some common sense and just stay out of the area. Then again, with some of the responses to this thread, it is no wonder that the authorities are offering such a high reward since some people seem to lack any common sense as to how much these things can interfere with something of the utmost importance as firefighting.
    mctommy likes this.
  20. learninmypc

    learninmypc TS Evangelist Posts: 6,552   +332

    I don't recall where it was, but I did see a video a month or so back where the firefighters DID use their hose & scared the operator away with the water blast.
    Yes, there NEEDS to be a way to "electronically" stop ANY UNofficial drone from hampering firefighters.
  21. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 11,467   +1,760

    Radio controlled aircraft only fly on a few narrow bandwidths of citizen's band radio. There are a few frequencies in and around 72 Mhz, and again at around 2.4 Ghz, on which voice communication is prohibited (*). (Primarily due to safety concerns) .It is illegal to sell the craft on other bands.

    The moral of the story is, you don't have to initiate broad band jamming, which would also knock out communications between firefighters on the ground and in the air.

    In any case, for me at least, this issue highlights how self involved, irresponsible and sociopathic, modern day Americans really are. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if the people flying the drones, were the ones who started the fire!.

    (*) AFAIK on 2.4 Ghz. Although, that doesn't serve to explain the drones which can only be controlled with an iPhone
  22. MannerMauler

    MannerMauler TS Booster Posts: 97   +18

    I know that this is VERY serious because one of my brothers should be dead, if not paralyzed. He was ran off the highway, I-85 to be exact, by some ***** trying to get into his lane and never stopped to see what happened. My brother's truck rolled several times and is totaled. These drone pilots should be tossed in jail for a week or two.
  23. jackal2687

    jackal2687 TS Enthusiast Posts: 85   +12

    Considering you can take out a helicopter engine with a tennis ball. Perhaps not. Don't like that example? How about a pigeon? Pigeons don't have metal or carbon fiber in them either.

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