News & Features

Drone Operator Who Flew Over Wildfire Under Investigation

The unmanned aircraft was seized after it interfered with firefighting aircraft near Billings

BILLINGS — Authorities are considering criminal charges against the operator of a drone that hampered firefighting efforts during a wildfire near Billings.

The Billings Gazette reports that the unmanned aircraft had been seized after it interfered with firefighting aircraft on Friday. Yellowstone County Sheriff Mike Linder says the aircraft had to be grounded and the incident cost firefighters several hours of air support.

Authorities located the drone operator, who Linder says seemed to know he had been doing something illegal. A spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration says the man faces fines of up to $27,500 in addition to criminal prosecution.

The fire, which began Friday, quickly burned more than 2 square miles and was determined 90 percent contained Sunday. It destroyed one home and forced the evacuation of several others.