Categories: JusticeRegulation

Drone Law Vetoed By Californian Governor

The likes of Amazon and Google had cause for celebration when the governor of California, Jerry Brown, vetoed a bill that would have drastically limited the use of drones in that state.

The bill, which had already passed both houses of the California legislature, would have banned unmanned vehicles from flying 350 feet above property without express consent of property owners.

Downed Bill

This would have seriously compromised the drone programs of Amazon and Google for example. Indeed, earlier this year Amazon revealed it was actively testing its “Prime Air” delivery drones in Canada’s British Columbia because of what it felt was as an overly restrictive approach by US authorities to the technology.

“Drone technology certainly raises novel issues that merit careful examination,” wrote Governor Brown. “This bill, however, while well-intentioned, could expose the occasional hobbyist and the FAA-approved commercial user alike to burdensome litigation and new causes of action.”

Amazon wants to create ‘drone highways’ in the sky for its planned delivery drones. Google is also developing flying delivery drones (Project Wing), and last year it conducted tests in the Australian outback.

And NASA is reportedly developing an automated system that would coordinate commercial drones and keep them from crashing into other aircraft.

In the United States alone today, there are 85,000 commercial, cargo, military and general aviation flights every day. Amazon reckons that this figure will be “dwarfed” by low altitude drone flights in the next 10 years.

Near Misses

But real concerns remain about the use of drones. Earlier this month for example, a mystery drone halted play at the US Open tennis tournament after it crashed into the stands during a match.

A similar occurrence took place at the Wimbledon tennis tournament back in June, when police were called out following reports of a drone being flown over the All-England Lawn Tennis Club.

And pop singer Enrqiue Inglesias suffered injuries to his hand after trying to grab a drone.

But these are relatively trivial events when compared to much more serious incidents when drones have come close to hitting conventional aircraft.

Last month it was reported that two flights from New York’s JFK airport narrowly avoided colliding with drones, with the vehicles coming dangerously close to commercial planes.

Last year the American FAA warned about the ambiguous legal status of commercial drones.

Recent research by the University of Birmingham highlighted the privacy, safety and indeed security risks of drones over the next 20 years, especially as the aircraft could be possibly used by terror groups to attack public events.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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