Up in Fresno, authorities say a privately operated drone just missed colliding with a medical helicopter that was flying a snake bite victim to a hospital yesterday. The pilot encountered the drone while flying at about 1,000 feet. He maneuvered away from the device, reportedly missing it by just 20 feet or so.
It’s the latest in a string of incidents involving private drones and emergency aircraft. Firefighting planes and helicopters in California have had to return to the ground several times in the past few months because of concerns about collisions with drones flying nearby.
State lawmakers are considering a proposal to increase penalties for people who fly drones near fire areas. And yesterday, state and local officials joined Burbank Congressman Adam Schiff in urging the FAA to come up with a technical solution that would prevent drones from flying near fires. L.A. city officials are also considering new restrictions for drones.
Interference with emergency workers is the biggest concern, but it’s not the only one.
Two men pleaded guilty in federal court yesterday to retrieving drugs that had been flown across the Mexican border in a drone. Authorities say a Border Patrol camera spotted the men picking up the drone in Imperial County in April and tossing it into the back of a truck. The drone was carrying a duffel bag with 28 pounds of heroin, The case is believed to be the first prosecution of drug-smugglers involving a drone.