The Small UAV Coalition has spoken out in opposition of S.B.142, a bill introduced by California State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, that would create a no-fly zone for drones 350 feet above private property.
According to Jackson, California law already prohibits people from entering others’ private property without permission and from photographing or recording conversations. However, S.B.142 clarifies that the rules pertaining to trespassing also apply to entry by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) on private property.
In a letter dated Aug. 14 from Michael Drobac, executive director of the Small UAV Coalition, the group says the bill “would needlessly and dramatically obstruct the growth of an industry that currently employs thousands of Californians and inhibit the safety benefits this technology offers.”
The coalition explains that UAVs, which could be inhibited by this law for search-and-rescue, delivery, precision agriculture and real estate marketing applications, even “stand to play a role in California’s current water crisis” if a farmer uses the technology to monitor drip irrigation lines or the water intake of crops.
“S.B.142 will harm Californians by limiting these operations and ultimately impeding the economic growth that this industry is expected to provide to the state,” the letter states.
The Small UAV Coalition notes that the 350-feet altitude limit “is inherently practical when taking into account current regulations” (the Federal Aviation Administration’s [FAA] prescribed 400 feet) and “would create a narrow zone in which small UAVs would be permitted to operate.” However, the letter says, because the FAA ultimately has control of the “navigable airspace,” the bill would “likely be preempted by federal law.”
Additionally, according to the coalition, because the legislation “restricts UAV operations that pose no threat to privacy, while providing no recourse against an individual who is actually engaged in privacy invasion just outside a victim’s property line,” it does not “provide meaningful protections for consumer privacy.”
“The Small UAV Coalition values consumer trust and looks forward to finding constructive solutions to protect privacy in California and the United States. S.B.142, as amended, is unfortunately a step in the wrong direction,” the letter concludes.
The Small UAV Coalition's full letter can be found here.