Forget the decorative flying drones proposed at Disney (the so-called “Flixels”) or a drone photos of Florida real estate: a bill proposed by Florida Senator Miguel Diaz De La Portilla (R-Miami) would classify drones as “dangerous instruments” and make owners liable to be sued for any trouble or damage they cause.
“Members the use of drones by businesses and hobbyists is accelerating daily.” De La Portilla said at a committee hearing last week, reports WSFU news. “As they become more common, close calls involving drones and aircraft or people are accelerating as well. Last week for example a drone crashed into Seattle’s giant Ferris wheel.”
The Miami senator is sponsoring a bill that would make drone owners and operators liable for any damage or injury caused by drones. “There’ve been serious headlines already and we’ve seen the number of registrations has just skyrocketed so we’ll have a swarm of drones,” he says. “That could potentially injure people and injure them seriously.”
This is the second version of the bill. Originally, De La Portilla wanted to create a bill that made owners and operators jointly liable for any damage – if, for example, your 14 year old hands the controls of his drone to his neighbor, both of you might be sued if the drone dropped onto a parked Mercedes and caused a scratch. This violated existing Florida laws prohibiting joint liability, however, so the Miami senator has come up with a way around it to ensure that those rogue drones can be sued for every penny: he’s declared drones to be “dangerous instruments.”
Defining a drone as a dangerous instrument puts it on par with a car or a boat: if you loan your car to a friend and the friend has an accident, you and the driver are both in trouble.
The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee voted 6-1 to support the amended proposal (SB 642). Bizjournals reports that Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, the single nay vote, said he needed more time to understand the impact of the amended proposal.
“I don’t believe the Legislature should ever try to put itself in a position to stopping technology,” Richter said. “Drones are here. They’re going to be here. We can’t stop technology. We need to properly regulate technology.”
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has penned over 3,000 articles focused on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
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