While the continued debate between the FAA and the UAV sector over how drones are to be regulated continues to grab headlines, a number of similar discussions are happening all over the U.S. as state legislatures figure out how drones will affect their legal landscape.
In 2014, 35 states debated UAV regulations, with 11 states enacting or changing their drone laws. So far in 2015, about 25 states are considering bills that relate to UAVs and more are expected to follow.
A Colorado Assembly bill that would have criminalized drone photography for those who may have an “expectation of privacy” crashed and burned on May 5 after flying through 28 amendments. Jeffrey Roberts of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition said the bill had been sponsored by a legislator “to address privacy concerns after a constituent complained about a drone hovering over the backyard of her home.” “While those privacy concerns remain, the legislature’s various attempts at finding a solution created other concerns,” Roberts added. “Attorneys for the press association and the broadcasters association questioned whether a bill is necessary because private tort claims already exist for intentionally intruding ‘upon the solitude or seclusion of another.’”
The Sunshine State is moving to keep drones in the shade when it comes to photography in private spaces. HB 649 prohibits law enforcement, individuals and state agencies from both recording and photographing people on private property. The bill has been passed by the House criminal justice committee and is expected to be debated by the full House soon. In addition to criminal penalties, people who are recorded in such a way may seek punitive civil damages from violators. SB 766, has already passed the Senate Committee on Community Affairs. Specifically, the bill prohibits recording an image of “privately owned or occupied real property or the owner, tenant, or occupant of such property with the intent to conduct surveillance on the individual or property in violation of such person’s reasonable expectation of privacy; and without that individual’s written consent.”
Recognizing that 2015 may be the “year agriculture drones take off,” the Louisiana House is considering a bill that would permit farmers to deploy drones under a three-year specialized license provided the holder takes a safety class. Unlicensed commercial farmer drone pilots would face a fine up to $500. The bill will only be legal if given clearance by the FAA. “This is going to be so valuable to us,” State Sen. Francis Thompson, the bill’s author, said in a recent news report. “I’m excited about the opportunities down the road for agriculture, forestry, aquaculture, cattle industry and all the various industries.” The bill stems from a state 2014 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Study Group resolution. “We were ahead of everyone last year when we did the resolution and studied all of this,” Thompson said. “We put our priorities into setting up a protocol.”
Heavily endorsed by the Massachusetts ACLU, the Drone Privacy Act would ban the use of weaponized drones in the state. Law enforcement could only use drones to drones to execute a warrant “for purposes other than criminal law enforcement, as long as the information cannot be used as evidence in a criminal proceeding or investigation, or used for any intelligence purpose.” In addition, drone use would be permitted in “emergencies when a threat to human life or safety is imminent.” The Massachusetts State Police will likely be watching the bill’s progress following news of the agency’s plan to deploy a drone “that can record and stream high-definition video, and track and identify the GPS location of any object in its view.” Police officials told the Boston Herald that “the drone would be used for search and rescue, evaluating damage from a natural disaster or assisting in car crash investigations,” rather than for survelliance.
HB 3421 would prohibit the flying of a drone at a stadium or arena “while 35 or more people are present for an event.”
A House bill (HB 586) would prohibit drone flights near airports, emergency scenes and near aerial spraying operations. Both House and Senate passed HB 330 in April. The new law bans local law enforcement agencies from receiving any drones from the federal government that would be classified as “armored, weaponized, or both.”
A bill imposing privacy restrictions on drones is expected to pass the Nevada legislature by June. AB 239 has passed an overwhelming Senate vote (21-0) and is currently on the floor of the Assembly. The bill seeks to “clarify existing law and creates new regulations on how police agencies and public citizens can fly unmanned aerial vehicles. The measure sets limits on how low a drone can fly before trespassing and requires a warrant for certain police observations by a drone on a private home.”
The Sooner State may see drones shot from the skies sooner rather than later if a proposed bill gets the legislative nod. SB 492, provides “civil immunity for damage or destruction of a drone on personal property.” Sponsor Sen. Ralph Shortey told the Associated Press that “he’s received reports of people shooting down drones [and that] landowners have no way of knowing the intention of a drone’s owner, and shouldn’t be held liable for shooting one down.”
Jason is a longstanding contributor to DroneLife with an avid interest in all things tech. He focuses on anti-drone technologies and the public safety sector; police, fire, and search and rescue.
Beginning his career as a journalist in 1996, Jason has since written and edited thousands of engaging news articles, blog posts, press releases and online content.
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