The Los Angeles County Fire Department (LACFD) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Los Angeles field office have collaborated to develop a drone deterrent system. The system is intended to prevent unauthorized drones from entering emergency response zones during a wildfire or similar crisis.
It is being developed in response to growing concerns about the ability of drone operators to disrupt aerial firefighting operations, as the technology becomes increasingly affordable to ordinary people, and as California continues to suffer from a high risk of wildfires.
The partners say that the new system is capable of identifying and locating drones within 30 seconds of take off. The system employs sensors to set up a boundary around an emergency response zone, and can reportedly obtain precise details about drones that enter the perimeter, including elevation, direction, speed, take-off point, as well as the current location of the controller.
Operating drones within an emergency response zone is a crime
Speaking to CNN, James Peaco, Weapons of Mass Destruction Coordinator for the FBI’s Los Angeles branch said: “When the detection equipment finds the drone and identifies the operator's location, we can very rapidly get that information to a ground intercept team who can then go make contact with that drone operator and essentially get them to stop flying that drone.”
Following identification, the controller will be requested to cease flying the drone immediately. Peaco explained that if the controller is identified as being ‘clueless or careless’, the operator will be warned off repeating their mistake, or issued a citation. However, he added that ‘if they’ve done something very egregious and really interrupted operations, or they refuse to comply, then we have federal felony charges that we can apply’.
Los Angeles County previously acquired two CL-415 Super Scooper air tankers in September 2021.