California's New Legislation Goes Too Far: Help stop SB 142

On September 12, California's bill SB 142, which will greatly limit drone flights in the state, will sit before Governor Jerry Brown. The bill is intended to protect citizens' privacy but goes too far, allowing anyone to prosecute any flight for any reason under 350 feet over his or her private property. The bill has already passed the state house and senate, and we need your help (California residents in particular) to help stop it from becoming law.

SB 142 goes too far for a few reasons. It makes even unintentional violations of private airspace illegal. The bill has been dramatically changed from its original form: In its original wording this was a pretty reasonable bill that required plaintiffs to prove that a pilot committed a combination of violations: The flight was too low (under 350 feet) over private property; the pilot knew they were trespassing on private property; the pilot intended to capture pictures or videos of people on the private property; and those images would be considered a violation of privacy by a reasonable person. However, the bill has since been revised to simply prohibit ALL flights under 350 feet over private property.

This bill is bad for both recreational and commercial use, and companies like Google, Amazon and GoPro are with 3D Robotics in opposition. Not only does SB 142 open the door for excessive litigation for recreational pilots, it also means that in order to prosecute a pilot for a privacy violation you don't even need to prove that the drone was outfitted with a camera -- let alone that the pilot was knowingly flying over private property and knowingly capturing images of somebody or something. As long as you're flying under 350 feet and that flight happens to cross over private property for any reason, you'd be breaking the law.

This obviously could lead to trouble for well-intentioned hobbyists flying purely for their own enjoyment. It also dramatically restricts available airspace in the state: Drones being used for research or delivery, for instance, would be limited to a 150-foot banner of free airspace above 350 feet and below 500 feet. This will stifle innovation, and trammel a nascent and incredibly promising industry that already has deep roots in California.

YOU CAN HELP! Please contact Jerry Brown -- https://govnews.ca.gov/gov39mail/mail.php -- and let him know that SB 142 goes too far.

You can read the bill here: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id...

Thanks!

Views: 1070


Admin
Comment by Thomas J Coyle III on September 6, 2015 at 1:04pm

Hi Roger,

Nice summation of the pending bill. Clear and concise.

Regards,

TCIII Admin

Comment by Gary McCray on September 6, 2015 at 2:49pm

Hi Roger,

Just sent my letter to Jerry Brown, lets hope our Governor has more sense than the House and Senate.

What a stupid, stupid, overreaching bill.

Best Regards,

Gary

Comment by DG on September 6, 2015 at 3:33pm

All one need do is look at Moonbeam's record to know if he has more sense.

My condolences to the sane people left in California.

Comment by James Mark Borgaily on September 6, 2015 at 4:49pm

Some lawmakers are just ignorant to see the big picture, privacy issues can be regulated but a bill such as this is downright excessive. Has the state now become a dictatorship. What happen to Democracy, freedom to even enjoy the passions of flying. Sure arrest violators for violating privacy, there are existing laws for that. Limiting height 350 is insane. Thats not a solution just some politician of old mind set.

Comment by naish on September 6, 2015 at 5:46pm

Isn't the FAA in charge to regulate the airspace in US, independently of what a state thinks? 

Comment by Nikola Rabchevsky on September 6, 2015 at 7:04pm

So glad I don't live there anymore.  The lunatics are definitely running the asylum.

Comment by JB on September 6, 2015 at 8:44pm

What I don't get is how a complainant can tell how high a aircraft flew over their property. Scaling of the aircraft would make it nigh impossible to gauge or prove without the "private owner" (is there such a thing?) owning some sort of range finder (that can accurately measure to the aircraft at all) with photographic proof that such a violation occurred. Otherwise it's just the word of the one against the other. Good for lawyers, costly for public services like the courts that have to deal with a potential flood of complaints (does California still have a budget?) Who's going to pay for it all?

But maybe there is a flip side to the story in that some smart cookie will develop a "drone detector" that will automatically track, identify, recognise, position, follow and issue an arrest warrant automatically on airspace violation. They already do that for the people, so why should we be surprised that they do that for drones??

The question is what do they think "privacy" means? :-(

Comment by Tony Kenward on September 7, 2015 at 6:41am

While the State of California may pass laws concerning privacy on private property, they have no authority over airspace.  We do not own the airspace above our property; we have the right to privacy on our property.

The FAA has already ceded the airspace up to 400 feet for recreational fliers (with caveats of course; TFRs, etc).  I don't believe that the bill can pass a Federal judge if challenged in court.

Comment by taylor ireton on September 7, 2015 at 12:11pm

So what I am understanding is that I am allowed to fly between 352-400 flt above someones house and be ok.  But if I drop below 350ft it is illegal?  Doesn't that sound a lot more dangerous to have someone near the 400ft mark.  How does the military or news copters that fly over my house allowed to get away with it?

Why doesn't someone just create a google maps that allow users to sign up and blacklist their house that we as fliers can go to before we fly and avoid such homes?

Comment by hal on September 7, 2015 at 1:06pm

The state can pass whatever laws it wants.  However this law impinges on an area that was designated by congress to be regulated federally.  There is no such thing as "private airspace."  Airspace is owned by the public and regulated by the FAA.  If the aircraft (the FAA has now defined UAS as aircraft) is federally registered and operated according to FAA guidance or regulations, there is nothing California can do about it.  350 feet is well within the navigable airspace.  Many helicopter operators fly at and below that altitude all the time.  California could prohibit the launching and retrieving of UAS on the ground, or ensure that it occurs in certain areas because that is not a federal issue.  Its a California land use issue.  So if the UAS departed someones property, or landed on someones property that could be trespass.  But how does one trespass on a public resource that is not privately owned?  I do not think one could "trespass" through the air.  It will be interesting to see what happens either way.  The first person caught will most likely say its a federal issue and California cannot regulate it.  Then the courts will get involved and set a precedent.  But the majority of case history shows that states cannot regulate the airspace.  That ended way way back when the Airmail bills were passed in the early 1900's.

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