Don’t drink and drone. That’s the message from the state of New Jersey, which passed a law on Monday that makes it illegal to operate an unmanned drone vehicle with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or higher. The limit is set to the same level as driving a vehicle, bringing drone operation in line with the rules of the road.
Reuters reported that the law, signed by Republican governor Chris Christie on his last day in office, comes with a serious penalty for offenders. Those found violating the new rule can face a $1,000 fine, six months in prison, or even both.
It’s part of a wider legislative crackdown against the flying machines, which are a popular way of capturing aerial footage for budding filmmakers. Drones have revealed the work on Apple’s spaceship-shaped campus in California, as well as the progress in production of the Tesla Model 3. Drone footage released by Elon Musk has even revealed progress on the Falcon first stage rocket boosters:
Hobby drones are also extremely popular in the U.S., with over 650,000 non-commercial drones having been registered with the Federal Aviation Administration by 2017. That’s potentially a lot of small flying machines cruising above our heads.
A few governmental organizations other than New Jersey have also decided that it’s time to set some boundaries on America’s drone driving. A classified Pentagon policy, written in July 2017, allows military bases to destroy any drones that come too close. The FAA released a map in April 2017 informing new users where they can and can’t fly drones. In total, the National Conference of State Legislatures claims that at least 38 states are reportedly considering anti-drone flying legislation for this year.
However, rules against drone operation may prove more pre-emptive than anything else. In February 2017, the Federal Aviation Administration released a report that confirmed that the agency has never verified any collision between a civil aircraft and a civil drone, despite many pilots reporting to the contrary.
As long as you’re not drunkenly whizzing your new drone around Jersey City to impress your friends, you should be fine.