You shall not pass: Drone trespassing legislation vetoed by California gov

California Governor Jerry Brown © Max Whittaker
Legislation that would have prohibited flying a drone less than 350 feet above private property without the property owner’s permission has been vetoed by California Governor Jerry Brown over worries about exposing drone users to trespassing litigation.

Drone technology certainly raises novel issues that merit careful examination,” Brown said in his veto message. “This bill, however, while well-intentioned, could expose the occasional hobbyist and the FAA-approved commercial user alike to burdensome litigation and new causes of action.”

Before we go down that path, let’s look at this more carefully.”

Senate Bill 142, authored by Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), would have created a “no-fly” zone over private property from the ground level up to 350 feet. Drone operators flying within those boundaries without the owner’s permission could have faced charges of trespassing. Flights above 350 feet are controlled by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The Santa Maria Sun said Jackson was prompted to write the bill after she was vacationing in Hawaii with her husband, retired Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge George Eskin. As the pair was enjoying their morning coffee in the backyard of their home, a drone came buzzing over the property and stared “eyeball to eyeball” with Eskin for several minutes before flying away. The pair followed the drone to the house of a neighbor who turned out to be friendly, but the incident spooked Jackson enough to launch the legislation over privacy concerns.

I am obviously disappointed that the Governor vetoed my drone privacy legislation, SB 142, but pleased the bill launched...

Posted by Hannah-Beth Jackson on Wednesday, September 9, 2015

If someone hops the fence and comes into your backyard without permission, it’s trespassing,” Jackson told the Santa Maria Sun back in March. “Why shouldn’t a drone be subject to the same provision?”

The bill passed by a 46-13 vote in the Assembly on August 24, and by 21-12 in the Senate on August 27.

The bill’s proponents said it would protect privacy, while opponents said it would significantly restrict the ability to use drones.

In a related story, San Bernardino County was offering rewards of $25,000 in July for information leading to the arrest and conviction of drone operators who had flown unmanned aerial vehicles [drones] over three forest fires that month.

The San Bernardino Board of Supervisors issued the bounty for drones that had restricted firefighting efforts during the North Fire near Cajon Pass on July 17, the Mill 2 Fire in Yucaipa on July 12, and the Lake Fire near Barton Flats that began on June 17.

Officials said that drones had hampered firefighting aircraft, forcing the planes to land as the fires spread. Officials warned that drones flying in unauthorized airspace along with firefighting aircraft could cause an in-air crash or harm bystanders.