The Latest: Bill sponsor says authorities could shoot drones

AP News
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Posted: Jul 13, 2016 8:05 PM

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Latest on a proposal to allow Utah authorities to damage or disable unauthorized drones flying over wildfires (all times local):

6:05 p.m.

The sponsor of a bill that would allow authorities to disable or damage unauthorized drones near wildfires says it would allow law enforcement to shoot down the unmanned aircraft - but they probably wouldn't.

Sen. Evan Vickers of Cedar City says drones fly so high it would be difficult to shot them. Instead, authorities are expected to use technology that jams signals to crash drones.

Vickers says the technology allows officials to target a specific drone and can be used without hurting other nearby aircraft.

Utah lawmakers approved the bill Wednesday.

Gov. Gary Herbert is expected to sign the bill into law within days.

It does not appear any state currently allows a drone to be disabled for flying over a wildfire.

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5:15 p.m.

Utah lawmakers have voted to allow authorities to disable or damage unauthorized drones near wildfires after at least one has plagued firefighters in the southern part of the state.

The bill lawmakers approved Wednesday in a special session would also impose harsher penalties on people caught flying the aircraft, with the maximum punishment of 15 years in prison and $15,000 fine if a drone causes a firefighting aircraft to crash.

Legislators say firefighters would use technology that jams signals to crash drones.

Firefighters in southwestern Utah recently had to repeatedly ground their aircraft when a drone was spotted flying nearby five times.

It does not appear any state currently allows a drone to be disabled for flying over a wildfire.

Gov. Gary Herbert is expected to sign the bill into law.

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11:37 p.m.

Utah lawmakers will consider whether to allow officials to damage or disable unauthorized drones flying over a wildfire and impose higher fines on people caught flying the aircraft.

The proposal is one of a handful of bills legislators will vote on Wednesday afternoon when they meet in a special legislative session.

The harsher drone penalties follow five sightings of a drone over a southwestern Utah wildfire, which caused firefighters to ground their aircraft and delayed their work.

Lawmakers will also look at spending $10 million toward a new stadium at the state fairgrounds and approving some tax exemptions for a data center as part of an attempt to lure Facebook. Documents filed with utility regulators show the social media giant is looking at building a new data center in Utah or New Mexico.