New Laws Take Aim at Drones
Recently in California, firefighter’s efforts were hampered by drone pilots looking to get aerial video of the blaze. Prior to that, a drone crashed into a crowded University of Kentucky stadium. There isn’t a question that in the wrong hands, unmanned aerial vehicles can be dangerous. Since 2013 states have been active in legislating new rules for drone pilots. Now, in 2015, the Federal Government has stepped in to do the same.
What does this mean for you?
For most of us, it means absolutely nothing. Unless you have a drone capable of flying over 500 feet and safely out of your line of sight; you don’t need to worry about too much. Some states have enacted laws that make taking video of people without their consent illegal while others have made hunting with drones illegal; but there has yet to be a uniform approach to this.
There are currently 45 states that have explored over 160 bills relating to drones and multirotor aircraft. Twenty of those states- New Hampshire, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Maine, Louisiana, Nevada, Mississippi, Illinois, Michigan, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Virginia, Hawaii, Maryland, Tennessee, California, Arkansas and Florida have all enacted over 25 resolutions relating to the use of drones. Arkansas HB 1349 and HB 1770 prohibits the use of drones to commit voyeurism and to collect information regarding critical infrastructure without consent. That may have helped the poor guy in Tennessee who shot down the drone over his pool spying on his sunbathing daughter (and was arrested for it). California AB 856 prohibits flying into someone else’s airspace in order to capture images of the person engaged in private activities without permission. Gotta protect the Actors!
On the federal level, the FAA issued a proposal on February 15th that outlines the requirements for drone operation in the US. These include:
- Must weigh less than 55 pounds.
- May only operate during standard daylight hours and within visual sight.
- Must fly no higher than 500 feet and go no faster than 100MPH.
- Must be operated by a person at least 17 years or older that has passed a FAA knowledge test.
- Must be registered but does not require an airworthiness certification. The FAA also indicated it will consider issuing separate regulations for drones and multirotors weighing less than 4.4 pounds.
Bottom line is that you need to know what the laws specific to your state are. We will delve deeper into what the new laws are as they are enacted; but it is much like the wild west out there now. The technology is moving so much faster than the ability to legislate can keep up. For now, as long as you have what we refer to as a hobby quadcopter (one that doesn’t go further than 250 feet from the transmitter), by most counts you’re OK. Just don’t take aerial photos of your next door neighbors wife sunbathing.
As for those of us with the more professional drones with the capability to fly over 500 feet and close to a mile away from the transmitter (anything with GPS really) we will need to register ourselves as pilots/owners of these aircraft and abide by the current set of regulations stipulating no fly zones. Best of luck to all of you out there, and fly safe!