Despite the FAA’s efforts (and Fact Sheet) to the contrary, state drone laws continue to be debated and passed. But in Virginia, legislation that would have allowed property owners who felt that their privacy was invaded by a drone to sue for damages was narrowly defeated in a Senate committee.
Virginia Senate Bill 584 was designed to prevent drone operators from taking an image of private property, and to specify that it was illegal to use a drone to “peep or spy” on any individual when they might reasonably expect privacy.
[Drone operators entering] into the airspace above the land of another person to capture or attempt to capture an image, including the capture of a visual image, sound waves, or thermal, infrared, ultraviolet, or visible light waves or other electromagnetic waves, of an individual located on private property without the consent of the landowner … is liable for invasion of privacy.
… it shall be unlawful for any person to use an unmanned aircraft system, as defined in § 19.2-60.1, to knowingly and intentionally peep, spy, or attempt to peep or spy into or through a window, door, or other aperture of any building, structure, or other enclosure of any nature occupied or intended for occupancy as a dwelling, whether or not such building, structure, or enclosure is permanently situated or transportable and whether or not such occupancy is permanent or temporary, under circumstances that would violate the occupant’s reasonable expectation of privacy.
The bill originally called for a $1000 fine in addition to liability; but lawmakers objected to fine. Despite the amendment, the measure was narrowly defeated.
The committee did approve Senate Bill 729, making it a Class 1 misdemeanor to use a drone in the commission of a crime or to obstruct law enforcement.
The bills show the growing public concern over drones and privacy issues. While the recently proposed 2016 FAA Reauthorization (AIRR Act) calls for a committee to examine the issue of privacy and drones, the federal government is not moving fast enough to prevent state and local legislatures from attempting to pass their own laws on the issue to soothe a public nervous enough to start shooting any drone they see flying over their property.
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 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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