House approves legislation to study drone incursions on fighting wildfires

Last week the U.S. House of Representatives approved bipartisan legislation to set up a federal and state study to examine the risks and effects of drone incursions on fighting wildfires.

House approves legislation to study drone incursions on fighting wildfires

The legislation to set up a federal and state study to examine the risks and effects of drone incursions on fighting wildfires was sponsored by U.S. Rep. John Curtis (R-UT). On December 10, the House votes 382-6 to pass the so-called Aerial Incursion Repercussion (AIR) Safety Act of 2020, H.R. 5040, which was first introduced in November 2019 and co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA).

When signed into law, the Act would instruct the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Department Agriculture’s Forest Service, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to work with local partners to set up a study on how drone incursions have affected fighting wildfires, the resulting costs, and to recommend any solutions.

Currently when a wildfire breaks out the FAA sets up temporary flight restrictions (TFRs) in the area to provide firefighters full access to the air space over the fire.

“Unfortunately, when people ignore these TFRs and fly their drones around the fire, fire managers must ground their own drones and helicopters until the incursion is clear,” said Rep. Curtis on the House floor prior to its vote, reports The Ripon Advantage. “This wastes valuable time and money, putting structures and lives at risk.”

Congressman Curtis added that H.R. 5040 would help to bring attention to the issue and would help to find the best ways to avoid future drone incursions. Curtis serves on the National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands Subcommittee on the House Natural Resources Committee.

“In the last few years, Utah and the rest of the West have been battling extreme wildfires,” Rep. Curtis said. “Our federal land managers, and state and local partners, need every tool available to put these fires out.”

House approves legislation to study drone incursions on fighting wildfires

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