With Updated FAA Drone Regulations Imminent, California Legislature Introduces Three New Drone Bills

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As discussed in a recent NPR report, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is planning to release proposed new drone operation regulations by the end of this month. Safety is a major FAA concern, with the agency reportedly receiving dozens of drone sighting reports every month from aircraft pilots, and with weekly, sometimes daily news reports of increased usage by private operators around the country. The expected release of the new FAA rules coincides with a surge of celebrity complaints about paparazzi-operated drones and reports of patron injuries caused by drone accidents. Now the California legislature, which attempted to pass several drone bills earlier this year, is getting back in the game with the introduction of three new drone bills of its own.

The three bills introduced during the first week of the 2015-2016 Legislative Session, are titled Assembly Bills 14, 37 and 56. Two of the bills, AB 37 and AB 56, focus on privacy concerns and use nearly identical language, while the third bill, AB 14, seeks to create a task force that would be responsible for formulating a comprehensive plan for state regulation of unmanned aircraft. This task force would be required to submit, among other things, a comprehensive policy draft and suggested legislation pertaining to unmanned aircraft to the Legislature and the Governor on or before January 1, 2018.

As mentioned above, similar bills were introduced during the 2013-2014 Legislative Session. Although most bills did not pass the legislative process, AB 1327, a bill similar to Assembly Bills 37 and 56, passed the legislature, but ultimately was vetoed by Governor Brown. With the increase in drone mishaps, it is likely that the number of bills aimed at regulating the use of unmanned aircraft will continue to increase this legislative session, most likely after the FAA releases its proposed regulations. California lawmakers have until February 27, 2015 to introduce new bills.

We will continue monitoring for - with drone-like persistence - and reporting on the publication of the new proposed FAA regulations, along with any new developments at the California legislature. The focus of our reporting will be to explain how new federal and state drone regulations will impact commercial drone use, particularly by the agricultural, energy, and land development industries. Hold on to your hats and stay tuned.

Text of the new proposed California drone bills are available at the links below.

AB 14 http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/15-16/bill/asm/ab_0001-0050/ab_14_bill_20141201_introduced.htm

AB 37 http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/15-16/bill/asm/ab_0001-0050/ab_37_bill_20141201_introduced.htm

AB 56 http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/15-16/bill/asm/ab_0051-0100/ab_56_bill_20141202_introduced.htm

Key Contributors

Hunter Ferguson
Kevin R. Prohaska
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