The PJ Tatler

Outlaw Drones! New Fears of Shoot-Out in the Skies

Apparently, Governor Moonbeam isn’t worried.

Last week, Jerry Brown the Governor of California vetoed legislation “that would have restricted the flying of drones lower than 350 feet over private property without the owner’s permission.”

One might have thought that Jerry Brown, who jumps on all kinds of thing (like trying to school Ben Carson on Twitter about climate change) would have leaped at the chance to ban drones.

Maybe he spared them because he took a look at the numbers.  An industry association report forecasts “more than 70,000 jobs will be created in the United States with an economic impact of more than $13.6 billion. This benefit will grow through 2025 when we foresee more than 100,000 jobs created and an economic impact of $82 billion.”  Just in the short term, California could gain 18,000 jobs and $14 billion in economic activity.

Brown might not be too concerned. Others are.

Trying to prevent America’s friendly skies from becoming the Wild West, several states are stepping in with their own laws governing drone-use. “In the absence of federal regulations, “ writes reporter Sarah Breitenbach, “states are eager to pass their own policies on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), mandating everything from where drones can be flown to whether law enforcement can use them to gather evidence.”

Florida, Minnesota, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon and Virginia already have laws on the books restricting drones.

It is not just states getting into the act. Recently, for example, the University of Arkansas banned flights over its campus.

Like Governor Brown, however, not everybody is on-board with all the drone-hating.

“[A]dvocates for the technology, which is growing in popularity both commercially and among hobbyists,” writes Breitenbach, “say legislatures are overstepping their authority and hamstringing an industry ripe for growth.”

But, how to balance the lure of dollars and warnings of danger?

On the one hand, the frustration of states is completely understandable.  There is already an awful lot of wacky stuff going on up there.

On the other hand, just writing laws might not be the best answer for addressing all the privacy, security, and safety issues raised by the commercial, public safety and law enforcement uses for domestic drones.

Bottom line—we do need to follow general principles and appropriate legal guidelines for the  use of drones in domestic airspace. But, the rules need to be sensible.