New Drone Laws

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According to Bard College (who is keeping a running total of local drone laws) there are now over 130 local laws in place for drones across the nation. Almost every week there is a new law being proposed or a new law being enacted.

The most recent major drone regulation to go into effect is in San Diego. Due to its natural beauty, beaches and other tourist attractions San Diego has been a hot spot for drone activity and local authorities thought it was best to regulate drones use for safety issues. San Diego took a common sense approach and basically took existing FAA regulations on drones and made them part municipal code so police can fully enforce them.

This is in contrast to cities like Orlando, Florida that are adding extra lawyers of control to existing FAA regulations. For instance, even though the FAA has an official drone registry, the city of Orlando requires those who want to operate inside of its city limits to pay a fee and register with the city.

Then there is a proposed law from Toms River, New Jersey which would effectively ban drone flight below 400 feet. The city says it is doing this to limit aggressive real estate agents who have been using drone video to show off properties. The city also says it would still allow drone flight, but there needs to be consent from the owners of the property that is flown over. The real questions here is does Toms River even have the authority to ban flight below 400 feet?

Drone Privacy Legislation Introduced in US Congress

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As more and more drones take to the skies members of Congress are concerned that the current FAA regulations don’t adequately address the privacy concerns raised by drones. Earlier this week, Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., and Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass introduced the Drone Aircraft Privacy and Transparency Act to create a framework for privacy protection from drones. Since drones are basically data collection platforms the proposed bill takes aim at restricting how data is collected and used.

Here is a quick summary of the main points of the bill:

  • Law enforcement would need to get a warrant to use drones (to collected data).
  • The FAA would only be able to approve drones licenses to operators who provide specific details about what kind of data they will collect and if the data will be sold to 3rd parties.
  • It would create a pubic disclosure requirements for drone operations including: location, timing, and ownership of drone.
  • The FAA would have to provide drone licensing information online as well as a database of those that have breached FAA regulations.

“The Drone Aircraft Privacy and Transparency Act requires transparency in domestic drone use and adds privacy protections that ensure this technology cannot and will not be used to spy on Americans,” Sen. Markey said. Rep. Welch and Sen. Markey introduced similar legislation in 2015, but failed to gain any traction at the time.

It will be interesting to see if the bill can gain any traction this time and if the FAA believes it will be useful in its plan to integrate drones into the National Airspace System (NAS).