The Battle Over Private Drone Use Wages on in California

Only you can prevent drones from preventing firefighters from fighting forest fires.

There’s a war for the skies going on in California — or at least a battle between high-minded legislators and attorneys.

It’s centered on the question of whether drone activity over private property should be legal. Recently, California governor Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that would have made the use of drones flying 350 feet or less over private property illegal, calling the measure too-haphazard in its approach.

“This bill…while well-intentioned, could expose the occasional hobbyist and the FAA-approved commercial user alike to burdensome litigation and new causes of action,” Brown said in a statement.

The skies are full of drones out on the West Coast, and drone advocates — plus businesses like Amazon and Google who are putting their drone freedoms to use — hailed Brown’s move.

But Governor Jerry may soon get his wish for a more targeted bill. After drone operators interfered with three separate attempts firefighters made to combat wildfires in California, the California Legislature is now putting forth a bill that would make it a crime to knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly operate an unmanned aircraft or unmanned aircraft system…in a manner that prevents or delays the extinguishment of a fire.

Another bill limits the liability action against first responders (aka firefighters) who damage a drone in the course of responding to a firefighter.

Though civilian drone operators looking to exercise their freedom of expression have a point, its hard not to agree that safety trumps creativity, particularly as stretches of California burn. And furthermore, flying a drone over a forest fire might constitute the lowest form of ruin porn. Keep an eye on this situation if you’re looking to get an indication of how to police private drone activity responsibly.

Related Tags