Jackson Bill To Protect Californians from Unsafe Drone Use Passes Out of Committee

April 06, 2016

SACRAMENTO – A bill by State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) 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 airports has passed out of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee. The vote was 7-2.

Senate Bill 868 would establish a comprehensive framework for drone use that prioritizes public safety, privacy and the long-held values of Californians. The bill now heads to the Senate Public Safety Committee.

“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 disruptive drone use near private property;
  • Limit drone use over state parks, state wildlife refuges, the State Capitol or other designated safety areas, without a permit or permission;
  • 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; 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.

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