Image: Drone 55
California Governor Jerry Brown today took a powerful step in seeking to protect the rights of commercial drone users across the the Golden State. Earlier this afternoon, Governor Brown vetoed a bill that would have restricted an operator's ability to use their drone across private property at an elevation of lower than 350 feet.
This bill has arisen alongside numerous other proposed regulations in the United States and around the world as it relates to drone filming and the use of drones for aerial filming and aerial photography. While drones were initially largely the domain of armed forces, recent years have seen their wide-scale adoption by both business and private users aka hobbyists and professionals who have taken to their skies like never before due to more affordable and easy access to drone technology.
Accordingly, while fair concerns have been raised prior about the intrusion of drones on emergency scenes (involving police,fire or ambulance) and upon protected sites by drones - such as military bases and intelligence centers - there has also been growing disquiet raised by drone filming and drone photography capabilities. Accordingly, this proposed bill can be regarded as having evolved from these concerns.
Yet, it is also true within California this bill could had held particularly strong consequences should it have passed. Alongside California being a giant player in media via Hollywood and technology via Silicon Valley - some of the biggest drone companies within the world such as 3DR are located in the state. What’s more, the growing use of drones by real estate companies - and the prospect of tech giants like Amazon and Google continuing to expand their drone testing and technology - would have all been rendered a challenging blow by this law; especially as it concerns the risk of what Jerry Brown called “burdensome litigation”.
While the proposed bill had fair intentions behind it - seeking to ensure drone’s were not used by ‘peeping toms’ to harass or spy on Californians within their private residences - it nonetheless was also fraught with risk and unfair consequences for innocent UAV users.
Citing concerns that the “bill would enact trespass liability for anyone flying a drone less than 350 feet without the express permission of the property owner, whether or not anyone’s privacy was violated by the flight [writer's emphasis]” Governor Brown vetoed it instead with a view towards protecting the rights of those who would use drones in their day-to-day in good faith and within the bounds of the current law.
While Governor Brown acknowledged drone technology “certainly raises novel questions that merit careful examination”, he rejected the bill in the main because though it was “”well-intentioned”’ it ultimately “could expose the occasional hobbyist and the FAA-approved commercial user alike to burdensome litigation and new causes of action.”