There is a state in the United States that has adopted a very thoughtful and cautious approach to unmanned aircraft. It is a state where the Governor, for two years in a row, has held his ground against a legislature that that would put broad restrictions on commercial drone operations. It is a state where the Governor has wisely stayed away from a fight with the FAA and the Federal Government over control of the National Airspace System. That state is . . . California??

Yes, the state that is known for high taxes and massive state regulations, led by someone who, back in the 1970s, had a reputation as one of the biggest tax, spend, and regulate Democrats, has blocked a number of very restrictive UAS laws that were passed by the state legislature.

This year, there were six UAS bills that made it to Governor Brown’s desk, but only two were signed. The enacted laws grant immunity from civil damage claims against any first responder that damage a UAS that is interfering with their emergency services work, such as fighting wild fires, and makes it a misdemeanor for persons to use a UAS to interfere with first responder’s activities.

The bills that the Governor refused to sign included:

  1. An attempt to make it a crime to use a drone in the commission of other crimes, such violating a protective order or facilitating the delivery of contraband to jails.
  2. Making it unlawful to launch, land or operate a drone without a permit on lands managed by the California Department of Parks and Recreation and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, or to use a UAS to fish or hunt.
  3. Required anyone whose UAS was involved in an accident to immediately land the drone and identify himself or herself to the injured person or property owner.
  4. Required drones to be equipped with geofencing systems to keep the UAS “from flying within any area prohibited by local, state, or federal law.”

Of course, this comes on the heels of Governor Brown’s refusal to sign a bill into law lastyear that would have made anyone who flew a drone over another person’s property below 350′ guilty of trespass and liable for damages. The statement issued by the Governor at that time called the attempt to block out this large section of airspace as ill advised and expressed concerns for its impact on the growth of the industry.

It is interesting to note that the UAS and consumer industry as a whole spent a great deal of time and effort to keep the legislature from passing these laws in the first place. Apparently the pressure the legislators feel from their constituents outweighs concerns for the progress of the industry and California’s position as a leader in developing this technology. If it were not for Governor Brown, the “drone climate” in California would be dramatically different.

Originally posted October 5, 2016