People who fly the drones over wildland fires could soon face criminal penalties under a bill gaining traction at the Legislature.
Unauthorized drone flights over wildland fires frequently leave fire managers no choice but to suspend aerial firefighting operations.
“Not only was this a significant risk to aviators, but severely limited our fire suppression capabilities when they were needed most,” Matthew Hall said.
Hall is the Fire Protection Bureau Chief for the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. Hall told the House Natural Resources Committee Wednesday that a drone grounded critical aerial firefighting aircraft just last summer in Helena.
State Senator Willis Curdy, a Democrat from Missoula, says that civilians using drones to monitor or photograph wildland firefighting operations currently face the possibility of getting slapped with civil penalties. Senate Bill 219 intends to raise the stakes.