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New FAA Proposed Rule Does Not Slow California Lawmakers’ Efforts to Regulate Drone Use

On February 15, 2015, the FAA released its proposed regulations on commercial drone use entitled, “Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems.” Just days following the release of the proposed rule, two new bills were introduced in the California Legislature related to drone use and the California Senate Judiciary Committee held an oversight hearing related to the benefits and risks of drone use in California.

During the committee hearing, Senate Judiciary Chairwoman Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) stated that she was pleased the FAA has issued its much delayed proposed regulation but noted that State lawmakers should not wait for Washington to act. Rather, the emergence of drone technology raises important issues of state law including questions of property law and privacy rights. See Senator Jackson’s entire opening statement.

Four days after the FAA issued its proposed rule, Senator Gaines (R-Roseville) introduced SB 271 which would make it an infraction to operate a drone on or above a school with K-12 students. The bill provides for fines of up to $150 for the first infraction and up to $500 for subsequent infractions.

On February 18, 2015, Senators Galgiani (D-Sacramento) and Anderson (R-San Diego) introduced SB 262 which specifically authorizes law enforcement use of drones so long as the use complies with Constitutional protections against unreasonable searches and California law regarding law enforcement use of surveillance technology.

While it is still unclear what preemptive effect the FAA’s rulemaking will have, it appears that California lawmakers are not waiting to find out and are moving ahead to address  issues raised by the expansion of drone technology.