California drone regulations

By CMTA Staff

Capitol Update, April 22, 2016 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

Lawmakers in California's State Legislature are knocking at the door again to regulate the use of unmanned aircraft vehicles, also known as drones. Several legislators are taking small bites at the apple, unlike legislation by Senator Hannah Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) that seeks to establish the first statewide drone regulation.

SB 868, by Senator Jackson establishes conditions for operating remote piloted aircrafts, including the mandatory liability insurance. The bill authorizes the Department of Transportation (CalTrans) to adopt rules and regulations governing the conditions that remote piloted aircrafts may operate for the purpose of protecting and ensuring the general public interest and safety, and the safety of persons operating remote piloted aircraft. Specifically, the bill:

Limits drone use within 500 feet of critical infrastructure, within 1,000 feet of a heliport, or within 5 miles of an airport, without permission; limits drone use within the immediate airspace of private property without permission; limits drone use over state parks, wildlife refuges, the State Capitol, or other designated safety areas, without a permit or permission; prohibits the weaponization of drones; prohibits the reckless operation of drones and drone interference with manned aircraft; requires commercial drone operators to obtain liability insurance; and continues to allow local governments to regulate drone use in their communities.

Under the bill, violators would be fined up to $1,000 or jailed for up to six months. Also, SB 868 requires commercial operators to carry liability insurance. Currently, no such policy exists.

Another complication comes from the federal level. Congress has granted the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) authority to regulate the national airspace and they are currently drafting rules for the use unmanned aircraft vehicles that will take precedent over any statewide regulation. SB 868 is definitely putting the cart before the horse.

Lastly, Governor Brown stated in various veto messages last year on drone bills that he is not looking to create new laws with regards to drones, but is willing to work with existing laws to create regulations.

CMTA opposes SB 868 because the proposed rules deter innovation and investment in California by imposing technology-specific criminal offenses, penalties and the heavy regulatory burden of liability insurance.

More information can be found in a fact sheet by FAA Office of the Chief Counsel, pertaining to the "State and Local Regulation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems(UAS)."

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