Jackson Introduces Legislation to Protect Californians from Unsafe Drone Use

January 13, 2016

Bill would limit drone use over critical infrastructure, private property, and state parks

SACRAMENTO – State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) has just introduced a bill to set comprehensive limits around the use of drones near critical infrastructure such as bridges and power plants as well as in state parks and wildlife refuges, on private property, and around the State Capitol.

Senate Bill 868, just introduced, is partly modeled on legislation recently enacted by the City of Chicago, and would establish a comprehensive framework for drone use that prioritizes public safety, privacy and the long-held values of Californians. 

“From helping farmers to responding to disasters, there are many innovative and extremely valuable uses for drones, and those uses should be encouraged and allowed to continue,” said Jackson. “But irresponsible or even dangerous operators and their drones should not be able to threaten our safety, our private property, the critical infrastructure we need to keep our state running or our beloved public parks and wildlife refuges.  Nearly every day, we hear of another potentially dangerous or destructive incident involving a drone. We cannot wait for disaster to strike before setting clear rules that provide certainty for everyone while keeping the public safe.”

Senate Bill 868, the State Remote Piloted Aircraft Act, would:

  • Limit drone use within 500 feet of critical infrastructure, including bridges, power plants, hospitals, water delivery systems, and oil refineries; within 1,000 feet of a heliport, or within 5 miles of an airport, without permission;
  • Limit drone use within the immediate airspace of private property without permission;
  • Limit drone use over state parks, state wildlife refuges, or within 500 feet of the State Capitol without a permit;
  • Prohibit the weaponizing of drones, ie, the turning of drones into flying guns or bombs;
  • Prohibit the reckless operation of drones or using drones to interfere with aircraft, regardless of whether they are being used to fight fires or transport people; and
  • Require commercial drone operators to obtain liability insurance.

SB 868 would continue to allow the use of drones for newsgathering and would authorize local governments to create additional drone regulations in their communities if needed.

Last year, Jackson authored SB 142, which would have prohibited drones from trespassing on private property without the owner’s permission and invading Californians’ privacy. Although the bill received bipartisan support, it was vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown.

The first hearing of SB 868 has not yet been set.

Jackson represents the 19th Senate District, which includes all of Santa Barbara County and western Ventura County.