California Drone Operation Laws – Part III

We discussed the pertinent issues and relevant laws in the previous blogs. In both state and federal jurisdictions, laws related to drone ownership and use aim to balance innovation and safety with privacy and security concerns. Here’s an overview of the key state and federal laws governing drone ownership and use in the United States:

Federal Laws

1. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Regulations: The FAA is the primary federal agency responsible for regulating the national airspace and overseeing the safe operation of drones. The FAA has issued regulations that apply to both recreational and commercial drone operations. These regulations cover aspects such as drone registration, airspace restrictions, operating requirements, and pilot certification.

2. FAA Modernization and Reform Act (2012): This legislation directed the FAA to integrate drones into the national airspace system and develop regulations for their safe operation. It established requirements for drone registration and directed the FAA to create rules for commercial drone operations.

3. Part 107 Regulations: Part 107 of the FAA regulations governs the commercial operation of small drones (weighing less than 55 pounds). It sets forth requirements for drone pilots to obtain a Remote Pilot Certificate, as well as rules for drone operation, airspace restrictions, and safety precautions.

4. Airport and Airspace Security: Federal laws and regulations also address the security risks posed by drones, particularly near airports and other sensitive locations. Unauthorized drone flights in restricted airspace can result in serious legal consequences, including fines and criminal charges.

State Laws

1. State Drone Laws: Some states have enacted their own laws and regulations governing drone ownership and use. These laws may address issues such as privacy concerns, operational restrictions, and licensing requirements. State laws can vary significantly, so drone operators should be aware of any applicable regulations in their state.

California has several state laws and regulations that govern the ownership and use of drones. While these laws complement federal regulations set by the Federal Aviation Administration, they also address specific concerns related to privacy, safety, and security within the state. Here are some key aspects of California state drone laws:

a. Civil Code Section 1708.8: This law addresses invasion of privacy concerns related to drone use. It prohibits the use of drones to capture images, video, or audio recordings of individuals engaging in private activities without their consent. It also restricts the distribution, dissemination, or use of such recordings for certain purposes without authorization.

b. Trespass Laws: California’s trespass laws apply to drone operations over private property. Flying a drone over someone’s property without permission may constitute a trespass, particularly if it interferes with the property owner’s use and enjoyment of the land.

c. Reckless Operation Laws: California has laws that prohibit the reckless operation of drones. Engaging in dangerous or careless behavior with a drone that endangers the safety of others or property can result in legal consequences.

d. Public Safety Laws: California law prohibits the operation of drones in a manner that interferes with emergency response efforts, such as firefighting operations. Flying drones in restricted airspace or interfering with first responders can lead to fines and other penalties.

e. Local Ordinances: Some cities and counties in California may have their own ordinances regulating drone use. These ordinances may impose additional restrictions on where drones can be flown, such as in parks or near public buildings, and may address concerns specific to the local community.

2. Privacy Laws: States may have privacy laws that apply to the use of drones for surveillance or data collection. These laws may restrict the use of drones to capture images or recordings of individuals in private settings without their consent.

3. Trespass and Property Rights: State laws generally recognize property owners’ rights to control access to their land, which can include restrictions on drone overflights. Trespassing with a drone over private property without permission may violate state laws and result in civil liability.

4. Criminal Laws: Some states have enacted criminal statutes specifically addressing unlawful drone activities, such as reckless or malicious drone operations. These laws may impose penalties for endangering public safety or violating airspace regulations. For example, in California, the following statutes may apply:

  • Penal Code Section 632: Privacy regarding eavesdropping or unlawful recording of conversations where the recorded parties did not give consent.
  • Penal Code Section 634: Trespassing on private property and committing (or attempting to commit) an act in violation of Penal Code Sections 631, 632, 632.5, 632.6, 632.7, or 636.
  • Penal Code Section 646.9: Stalking, or purposefully repeatedly following another person, sometimes with malicious intent or to intentionally cause fear.
    Penal Code Section 647: Invasion of privacy, especially using technology devices such as cameras and voice recorders.

In summary, drone ownership and use are subject to a complex framework of federal and state laws and regulations aimed at ensuring safety, privacy, and security. Drone operators should familiarize themselves with both federal regulations issued by the FAA and any relevant state laws to ensure compliance and responsible operation of drones. Please don’t hesitate to contact our law firm to speak with a qualified internet and technology attorney about your legal rights.