Drone pilots who interfere with those fighting wildfires, conducting law enforcement tasks, or other first responders (such as medical flights) are now more likely to face serious civil penalties. Last week, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued guidance for agency personnel who handle drone violations to refer all such cases to the FAA’s Chief Counsel’s office for possible enforcement action.

Back in July 2016 that Congress authorized the FAA to impose civil penalties of up to $20,000 for anyone who operates a drone deliberately or recklessly interfering with wildfire suppression, law enforcement, or emergency response efforts. Under previous FAA guidance, the FAA generally used non-enforcement methods like education and training to correct unintentional violations of FAA regulations. However, under this new guidance, due to the potential for direct and immediate interference with potentially life-saving operations (where minutes matter), violators will be immediately considered for enforcement action (which can include a hefty civil penalty). To read the full guidance, click here.