Drone flights ‘endangering’ an industry

Let’€™s play a little game of connect the dots:

• A few weeks ago, there was a fire in the San Bernardino Mountains. Air tankers swooped in to spread fire retardant, a common practice as California moves from its brown season into its flaming season. Then the aircraft stopped flying.

Drones, fire officials said, were flying in the area, making it too dangerous for aircraft. So the tankers were grounded. There was some tsk-tsking but, since damage was limited, the matter blew over.

• A few days ago, a brush fire jumped the I-15 at the Cajon pass. It was a scene from a Hollywood epic, only the special effects weren’t computer generated. Mother Nature was the one chasing screaming motorists from their cars.

Again, air tankers took to the skies and again they encountered drone activity. The pictures of charred cars and trucks were shown everywhere. The first-hand accounts were terrifying. Luckily, nobody was killed.

This time the fire officials were irate. They detailed the antics of five drones flying above, below and behind the air tankers.

• Fast forward to sometime this summer when drone activity halts firefighting efforts and somebody dies. As our mothers used to tell us, it’s all fun until somebody gets hurt.

• So where does the next dot lead us? If you’€™re guessing to the FAA pulling the short leash it has on the drone industry, you’d be spot on. Requiring line-of-sight control seems unnecessary under normal conditions, but not when lives are at risk.

This is one of those moments when all those involved in the drone phenomenon — hobbyists, professionals, potential clients, investors — need to come together and police their own. Help stop this dangerous behavior now. The alternative invites government over-reaction in response to public fear.

Flying drones in restricted airspace during an emergency poses a double –in addition to possibly injuring or killing people, an entire industry could be crippled before it can show its potential.

Nevada’s drone industry is growing like wildfire. It would be a shame if the drone industry becomes a casualty of a California wildfire.



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