Lawmakers, firefighters remind drone owners about wildfire flying restrictions

16 photos
Save Story

Show 1 more video

Leer en español

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

SALT LAKE CITY — With drone technology improving, more and more people are flying them for recreation. But as the summer fire season gets underway, both lawmakers and firefighters are urging drone users to learn the law before they fly.

In the past several years, drones have been spotted flying near wildfires in Utah, posing a risk to those battling the flames.

“Last year we did have three that I know of; the most notable was the Wheeler Fire in Wasatch County where all aerial operations had to be shut down for about 2 1/2 hours,” said Jason Curry of the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands.

Since 2012, the number of drones flying in wildfire areas in Utah has been increasing. Because of the safety concerns, the Utah Legislature passed HB126, which became law last month.

House Bill 126 is a simple prohibition on the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, drones, in an active wildfire situation,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Kraig Powell, R-Heber City.

If someone is caught flying an unmanned aerial vehicle in a prohibited area, charges range from a misdemeanor for just flying in the restricted areas; felony charges are possible if a drone collides with firefighting equipment or causes a crash. There are severe federal penalties as well.

"I think that the issue that we have been faced with is that many of the rules and regulations about when and how and where to fly are not understood by the uninitiated, the folks who have just bought a recreational drone,” said Marshall Wright with Mountain West Unmanned Systems Alliance.

The hobby of flying drones has dramatically increased in popularity in recent years. And commercial use of drones is also on the rise. Law enforcement agencies use them for aerial surveying, getting a look at the flash flood damage in southern Utah last year and inspecting the landslide in North Salt Lake.

“There was a collective sigh of relief when this bill passed,” Curry said.

To find out the rules of flying and the operations of a drone and how to register it with the FAA go to

Contributing: Viviane Vo-Duc


Related stories

Most recent Utah stories

Related topics

Keith McCord


    Get informative articles and interesting stories delivered to your inbox weekly. Subscribe to the Trending 5.
    By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

    KSL Weather Forecast