California State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, has introduced a bill that she says will set comprehensive limits around the use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in certain areas of the state.
The restrictions include critical infrastructure, such as bridges and power plants; state parks and wildlife refuges; private property; and the State Capitol.
According to Jackson, S.B.868 – the State Remote Piloted Aircraft Act – is partly modeled on legislation recently enacted by the City of Chicago. The senator notes that the bill would continue to allow the use of drones for newsgathering and would authorize local governments to create additional drone regulations in their communities if needed.
Last year, Jackson authored S.B.142, which would have created a no-fly zone for drones up to 350 feet in altitude above private property. The legislation received bipartisan support in the Senate, as well as opposition from many UAS stakeholders, but was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown in the end.
“From helping farmers to responding to disasters, there are many innovative and extremely valuable uses for drones, and those uses should be encouraged and allowed to continue,” says Jackson, who represents the 19th Senate District, which includes all of Santa Barbara County and western Ventura County.
“But irresponsible or even dangerous operators and their drones should not be able to threaten our safety, our private property, the critical infrastructure we need to keep our state running, or our beloved public parks and wildlife refuges. Nearly every day, we hear of another potentially dangerous or destructive incident involving a drone. We cannot wait for disaster to strike before setting clear rules that provide certainty for everyone while keeping the public safe,” the senator adds.
Specifically, the State Remote Piloted Aircraft Act would do the following:
- Limit drone use within 500 feet of critical infrastructure, including bridges, power plants, hospitals, water delivery systems and oil refineries, and within 1,000 feet of a heliport or within five miles of an airport, without a permit;
- Limit drone use within the immediate airspace of private property without permission;
- Limit drone use over state parks or state wildlife refuges and within 500 feet of the State Capitol, without a permit;
- Prohibit the weaponizing of drones: e.g., turning drones into flying guns or bombs;
- Prohibit the reckless operation of drones or using them to interfere with aircraft, regardless of whether they are being used to fight fires or transport people; and
- Require commercial drone operators to obtain liability insurance.
The first hearing of S.B.868 has not yet been set.