While police in North Dakota can now arm their drones with tasers, tear gas, and rubber bullets thanks to the recently passed HB 1328, hobbyists in California will have increased restrictions for their drones if SB-142 passes the State Senate. The bill recently passed the State Assembly and is headed to the Senate floor where it’s expected to pass and become law.
The bill would effectively limit where hobbyists are able to fly their drones — a block of airspace of 350 to 400 feet above private property, with anything below that considered restricted. That is, without the consent of the owner. In contrast, the FAA guidelines of where civilian drones can fly are similar: below 400 feet and at least 5 miles from an airport over any public or privately owned area.
There are certainly valid reasons to restrict where civilian drones can be operated, especially in California as some interfered with firefighters and almost collided with one helicopter as it was landing to drop off workers to battle the myriad of blazes currently affecting the state. Others simply value their privacy, which is certainly understandable as well, just look at the video from Tice Ledbetter below.
Some hobbyists however, feel the measure is designed restrict all drone activity, including racing in areas where boundaries are often difficult to define. What happens if one of those drones suddenly goes off the racing course because of a malfunction and travels into private property, would that be considered an arrestable offense?
Then again, the Supreme Court ruled back in 1946 (United States V. Causby) that property owners’ rights do not extend indefinitely in the air over their properties, however where that limit is, is a matter of debate.
Whether it passes or not, civilians are taking it a step further with “anti-drone shotgun shells.” Stopping drone surveillance will happen one way or the other. We spoke with the creators of these anti-drone shells recently about the legality of selling ammunition that is intended for shooting down drones, you can read about that here.