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California may ban drones from trespassing over private property

The California State Assembly yesterday passed legislation that would make drone operators guilty of trespassing if they fly their UAVs over private property.

The bill (SB-142) still faces a vote in the senate, but if signed, will make flying a drone below 350 feet over private property without the consent of the property owner illegal. Currently the FAA allows small aircraft to be flown for recreational purposes without a permit, below 400 feet and at least five miles from an airport. This means that, if this bill is signed, drone hobbyists in California will only be able to fly their drones within a small band of airspace — between 350 feet and 400 feet.

drone hobbyists in California will only be able to fly within a small band of airspace

According to the Los Angeles Times, some lawmakers expressed concern that the new bill would stifle growth and innovation in the burgeoning drone industry. But Mike Gatto, one of the bill's supporters, argues that businesses won't be harmed because trespassing penalties would only be applied to drone operators, not manufacturers.

States and agencies across the country have been struggling to figure out how to regulate drones, but it's unclear how successfully this bill will be able to protect privacy. It's not clear how a 350 feet rule would eliminate spying completely, but it will prevent operators from being able to fly their drones directly outside people's homes.

Bill SB–142 passed the Assembly on a 43–11 vote, and will go to the Senate for final approval. Bill AB–856, which makes it a crime for paparazzi to use drones to take pictures or video over private property, was also passed, by a vote of 40–0.