SACRAMENTO – A bill by State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) to prohibit drones from trespassing on private property without the owner’s permission and invading Californians’ privacy passed off the Assembly floor today on a bipartisan vote. The vote was 56-13.
California law already prohibits someone from entering private property – a person’s home or backyard, for example – without their permission, and prohibits them from photographing or recording conversations. Senate Bill 142 clarifies that the rules pertaining to trespassing by a human being also apply to entry by remotely operated aerial vehicles known as drones. The bill would create a drone ‘no-fly zone’ of 350 feet above private property.
“I’m very pleased to see this bill moving forward. Drones are a new and exciting technology with many potentially beneficial uses. But they should not be able to invade the privacy of our backyards and our private property without our permission, “ said Jackson. “This bill is a balanced approach that will allow the commercial use of drones, should that one day become an option, while keeping our important rights to privacy and private property intact.”
SB 142 would not impact the use of drones in public spaces – such as roads, beaches, schools, public utility easements, and other spaces where drone use is not restricted — nor in the space approximately 350 feet or more above ground, which is subject to federal regulation. Commercial drone operators would remain free to access a customer’s private property with permission, and have unrestricted access to airspace between 350 and 500 feet.
Owners would also be free to use drones on their own property, or on property in which they had been given permission to use drones.
The bill follows numerous public incidents with drones, including incidences of drones impeding firefighting efforts. Often, drones are equipped with video cameras and sound-recording equipment. As they become more widespread, the potential for colliding with established privacy rights increases.
“This bill establishes clear rules so that we can prevent problems from occurring,” said Jackson.
Oregon currently has a law in place, passed in 2013, prohibiting the flying of drones over private property without permission up to 400 feet.
The bill now heads to the Senate floor for a concurrence vote.
Jackson is chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which oversees legislation on privacy issues. She represents the 19th Senate District, which includes all of Santa Barbara County and western Ventura County.