California Legislature Takes Another Pass at Regulating Drone Operators

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As part of our continuing California drone law coverage, today we report on the latest attempt by the California legislature to regulate unmanned aerial vehicles. Introduced yesterday by California State Senator Hannah Beth Jackson (D), Senate Bill 142 would extend trespass liability to drones, in effect prohibiting drone operations that might lead to photography, recording, data accumulation, or other unwelcome intrusions on private property.

The scope of SB 142 includes several limitations. Since the Federal Aviation Administration regulates aircraft that operate above 400 feet in altitude, the proposed legislation is expressly limited to drone operations below this altitude. Furthermore, the bill does not impact drone operations on public property, property owned by the drone operator, or property where the landowner has provided permission. For this reason, and as highlighted in a number of media reports, the bill does not address, much less preclude, drone spying or snooping from a lawful operation on an adjoining property. Privacy rights and personal intrusion, particularly in the home, backyard, or other ostensibly private locations is now a leading concern amongst opponents of expanded drone usage, including Hollywood’s celebrity community.

To the extent drone usage is employed for agricultural, resource development, surveying, and other industry and scientific uses, SB 142 would only apply where property lines are crossed, and drone operations are unwelcome.

We predict that SB 142 will likely have a substantial head of steam at the outset, due largely to the controversy and security concerns arising from the mystery drone that landed recently on the White House lawn. Although that incident turned out to be a fluke accident, it has sharply refocused already heightened concerns about a fledgling industry still seeking to find its way. Broader guidance from the FAA remains somewhat distant, as the agency remains in the throes of preparing regulations.

SB 142 would add section 1708.83 to the California Civil Code.

View our previous coverage on this issue here:

Key Contributors

Hunter Ferguson
Kevin R. Prohaska
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