Gardner, Bennet, Tipton Introduce Legislation to Make it Federal Felony to Fly Unauthorized Drones Over Wildfires

Washington, DC –Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO), Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Representative Scott Tipton (R-CO) announced on Wednesday that they have introduced the Securing Airspace For Emergency Responders (SAFER) Act. This legislation, which is being introduced in both the House and Senate, makes the unauthorized use of an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) over a wildfire a federal felony. 

“I’ve heard firsthand from the men and women fighting fires in Colorado about the problems and risks they encounter with unauthorized drones flying over wildfires,” said Senator Gardner. “It puts the lives of firefighting personnel at risk and enhances the threat to public safety by causing the grounding of aerial firefighting assets because the airspace over a fire isn’t secure. We need to put a stop to this and the SAFER Act can help do that by making it a federal felony to fly unauthorized drones over wildfires.”

“When managing wildfires, the last thing firefighters should have to worry about is interference from unauthorized drones,” Bennet said.“Coloradans understand the risks that recreational drone activity creates for our communities, and Senator Gardner, Congressman Tipton, and I will work to prohibit this unauthorized drone use to help our first responders do their jobs.”

“When an unauthorized drone flies over a wildfire, it poses a huge threat to aircrafts working to suppress the fire and forces them to ground,” said Tipton. “Not only does this prevent the fire from being suppressed as quickly, but the firefighters on the ground are also left without the air support they may need to create an exit route in the event of an emergency. This legislation will deter this kind of problem in the future, helping Colorado’s brave firefighters perform their jobs in a safe and efficient manner.”

In recent years emergency responders have had problems with individuals flying their drones over wildfires. Some instances have even required emergency responders to ground aircrafts helping fight the fires due to the risks created by unauthorized drones in the air space. Senator Gardner brought up the issue recently at the Senate Republican leadership press conference urging individuals to not fly their drones over the 416 fire in Southwest Colorado.