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California Bill Looks To Ban Drones From Flying Over Private Property

By Hanssie on August 26th 2015

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, aka drones, have made quite a splash since their debut on the market, with professionals and hobbyists alike adding these into their photographic arsenals. Often times though, drones have been subject to the scrutiny of the media recently. Story upon story of irresponsible usage of drones, such as a man crashing his drone into Yellowstone Hot Springs , hindering firefighters from battling blazes, nearly hitting commercial airliners, and being general nuisances, have caused lawmakers to scramble and create laws for drone flight and safety.



Earlier this year the FAA released an official set of rules for drone usage, and the proposed plan was set to be finalized next month. On Monday, a California bill passed in the state Assembly prohibiting drones from flying over private property. The bill by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) proposes that the distance of 350 feet above a private property be deemed as a “no-fly zone.” UAV operators will still be able to fly their drones over their own private property, above private property with permission, and over streets and public parks.

“When we’re in our backyards, with our families, we have an expectation that we have a right to privacy…This bill would extend our long-established definitions of trespassing and privacy, and bring them into the 21st century, by applying them also to drones,” Sen. Jackson said in a press release. The bill, called SB-142, still needs to be voted on in the Senate, but some voiced concerns that the regulations would hurt the growing drone industry. Drone supporters are also worried that if boundary lines for private property weren’t clear, operators could be fined or even arrested for accidentally flying their drone over someone’s property, even if it’s to “just turnaround.”

The bill passed 43-11 in the Assembly and now moves to the Senate for final approval.

What do you think about SB-142? Is 350ft too high? Will the bill stifle innovation? Comment below.

[Via Huffington Post]

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Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at Follow her on Instagram

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Hagos Rush

    So sorry, forgot to add this article as well.
    Remember the FAA?
    Now they have an app that shows where it’s legal to fly a drone. So they are working on some things. It will take time to get the others correct, AKA buck naked Matthew haha

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  2. Hagos Rush

    Here is a link of Boeings laser drone killer. Its coming haha

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  3. Taylor Osborn

    Touche’ Matthew touche in regards to your last sentence. I think I’ll pass.. hahaha! On another note I’m heading out the Redbull Rampage in October. I’ll shooting the event (for fun) but since it’s out in remote Utah I wanted to try some astro stuff. Mind if I PM you for some advice on that once it get closer? Stay cool in this damn hot weather!

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  4. Taylor Osborn

    Matthew and Dustin,

    I get where you’re both coming from. I have a UAV, the inspire 1 to be exact and have been flying for a couple of years now. I was just trying to mitigate the mass hysteria in regards to this area of technology. Of course there are going to be idiots that want to be creepers, fly above a wild fire and arm one with a gun unfortunately. That’s in the minority though and it is making the rest of us responsible pilots look bad. A perfect example is some people who own a drone don’t even know what the FAA guidelines are or even what a TFR (Temporary Flight Restriction) is. We had a small wildfire here in my home town of Laguna Beach on the 3rd of July which means there was a TFR over most of the town. The next day I counted at least 4 UAVs flying into the fireworks at main beach while emergency responders where keeping an eye on the hot spots. My bird remained grounded those days. I don’t disagree that UAVs do need to be regulated (in both the hobbyist and professional realms) but by the FAA who are educated in this matter, not on a state level in which they are not.

    Be right back, going to spy on my hot neighbor with my drone… ;)

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    • Hagos Rush

      hahaha atta boy Taylor.

      You are however correct. I do actually agree that the FAA would be a better judge and jury for the drones. My concern is how would they police the users? In your story above you know what a TFR is but do any of the other pilots know this or better question, do they even care?

      A thought:
      I mean, we know that drones operate on regulated frequencies (2.4GHz – 2.5GHz, 433.05MHz – 43, 4.79MHz 5.725~5.825 GHz, 2.400~2.483 GHz), can they not just block those frequencies from areas during a time of emergency (a wildfire)?

      This would require emergency responders to then have additional equipment yes but they would not be bothered by the irresponsible drone flyers. Just a useless thought.

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    • Matthew Saville

      Very well said, Taylor. However I think we can allow responsible owners to enjoy their hobbies, or expand their professions, while still getting the unacceptable stuff under control.

      Nobody should be allowed to own a UAV or drone WITHOUT being educated regarding FAA regulations. Like getting a drivers license or pilots license, using airspace without any knowledge of safety could potentially endanger entire passenger airplanes,or entire neighborhoods threatened by wildfire, etc.

      Thankfully, indeed laws have been / are being put into place regarding UAV flight near airports and wildfires. And I don’t think anybody is arguing AGAINST the safety of airplane and helicopter pilots here, or passengers or fire-threatened communities.

      The issue of general privacy is apparently much more touchy and big government-ish. I understand that. If you want to be legally permitted to fly a drone just 50 ft above my house, then let’s put it on the ballot and see who wins. I don’t have air conditioning though so in the summer I like to sleep with all windows wide open, and buck naked. Enjoy the view.

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  5. Richard Olender

    Seems to me people own the ground and not the air above it

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    • Matthew Saville

      Your logic seems valid, however the issue of privacy is very real. I don’t understand how so few people get this. How close is too close to YOUR home, YOUR windows? Do you want a camera hovering 10 ft from your bedroom window? 20 ft? 50 ft? Somebody has to draw a line somewhere. If you have a better idea of where to draw the line, then let’s hear it.

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    • Dustin Baugh

      This is already coming to a head. Locally a woman called the police because a drone has been hovering around the window of her teenage daughter in the evening. The police were called but my state doesn’t have any laws they can prosecute with. Basically the best they can do is try to find the person doing it and ask them to stop; the person is physically nowhere near the property and never stepped foot off their own property.

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  6. Dave Smith

    It’s not already not the law , because you don’t own the sky. Are you going to ban the private planes that fly over your house? What about Helicopters? What about radio controlled planes? What about that 727 heading to NY? Wait, my next door neighbor can look into my yard from his second floor. Knee jerk reaction by idiots. This is going to kill the industry.

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    • Hagos Rush

      Here is the thing, there is NO regulation for drones. Anyone can do whatever they want and it is okay because there are no rules. If the government is not regulating it then who? Thats right, me. I can absolutely use a focused beam to bring down a drone that is flying over my property. If I am not allowed to shoot it out of the air then what do I do?

      Lest we forget how a drone caused a firefighting aircraft to abandon the area in California because the foolish pilot got in the way. Or how about when firefighters are putting out a house fire and fire warning shots (in the form of a water cannon) at a drone and the pilot doesn’t get it and now wants to sue because the soaked his aircraft. With privilege comes responsibility.

      You don’t want regulation, you don’t want home owners to protect themselves, you don’t even own a drone. What do you want done about this then? Because it sounds like your answer is nothing.

      I own a drone, I DO NOT fly over anyones house or property. Why? Because it is super sketchy, because it invades ones privacy. I fly in open areas such as parks and school yards now that school is out. Why can’t everyone else?

      Oh and about your gripe that it only leaves 50′ between commercial air space…so what? Who is going to regulate that all drone owners are using 20mm or wider lenses? Oh thats right, you don’t want anyone regulating it so….

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    • Matthew Saville

      Dave, I don’t know where you live but it might be that you simply aren’t in an area that is filled with creepy pervs who have no morals or sense of human decency.

      350-400 ft up in the air is not very high. Helicopters and jumbo jets never fly that low unless they are seconds away from landing. Which is why drones aren’t allowed to fly near airports.

      RC planes have had designated miniature runwaws and airspace forever. There is one near my house, and that is where you go if you want to fly your hobby RC plane. For the most part RC plane owners are a very respectful bunch, because they are actually aviation buffs who know about aviation safety, airspace, etc.

      Drones seem to be different in that they’re being bought by all manner of consumers, from respectful hobbyists to highly unscrupulous lawbreakers.

      Certain safety and privacy regulations will NOT kill the industry. Drone sales will go up no matter what, I can guarantee you that. The only thing that will change is, people will be safer from horrible things like airline crashes or wildfires, and they’ll also keep the sanctity of their private property.

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  7. Hagos Rush

    I currently own a drone. This should be a law not just in California but ALSO throughout the United States. 350 feet is a great height to keep the drone pervs away. I call them pervs not because they are but simply because they see it as “okay” to fly over anyone’s house/yard and record whatever is going on.

    Since it is illegal for me to shoot it out of the sky please keep it away from my property. I will be installing some RF jammers around my property just to cause them havoc and more to keep them away from my property.

    An absolute no brainer, make this a law. Furthermore, make more laws which will regulate how and under what circumstances they can be used.

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    • Dave Smith

      Combine this law with federal law and you run out of airspace to fly. But you’re going to illegally jam RF around your house? Does that make sense? No I don’t have a drone, don’t intend to get a drone, but government regulation is not the answer.

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    • Barry Cunningham

      Shooting a drone out of the sky over your private property is illegal because using a gun in that situation is dangerous and stupid.
      Think safer and smarter. How about a tee-shirt cannon and some old shirts or clothesline?

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    • Hagos Rush

      Well Barry,

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    • Hagos Rush

      Well Barry, I did state that it is illegal to shoot them out of the drones from the sky and to be honest I will stay to other things much simpler and straight forward…AKA water jet shots to warn off and then a soaking.

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    • Dustin Baugh

      There is a lot of public land. You won’t run out of airspace to fly. Maybe run out of backyard to hover over, but no lack of airspace.

      Ironically the same people trying to privatize more land and limit your airspace are the same that don’t want more government regulation.

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  8. Taylor Osborn

    It’s an unfortunate knee jerk reaction by the government. If they’d actually educate themselves on lens focal lengths they’d realize that most drones have a 20mm lens or wider on them. A 70-200mm on a DSLR can invade ones privacy much easier than a noisy drone that would have to be within 20ish feet to see anything worth spying on. Also with a 350ft min height over private property that only gives a 50ft buffer to the FAA’s 400ft max height limit. That make no sense what so ever.

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    • Matthew Saville

      That’s a minor technicality that is quickly going to not be true at all soon. If someone is inclined, they can modify a drone to carry almost anything. Drug runners are using drones, there’s a drone that can carry the weight of a handgun, (and fire it!) and so on and so forth. If we don’t make this law now, simply based on the argument that most drones come stock with ultrawide lenses that can’t see into people’s private areas, …we’re just shooting ourselves in the foot down the road. IMO a 350 ft height minimum is 50 ft too low. ;-)

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    • Dustin Baugh

      It’s not just that a drone can take pictures of you it’s the distraction that they cause. They are an annoyance, if your neighbor got an air horn and sat in your backyard blasting it while you tried to have a BBQ with friends it would be harassment. If he hovered 100ft over your backyard is it suddenly ok?

      Sure it’s annoying when a neighbor mows his lawn too but he’s on his own property and doing a positive service keeping his yard looking good. If he just sat with his lawn mower running in the middle of your backyard, staring you in the eye as he did so, it would be a nuisance.

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  9. Matthew Saville

    Over private property? How is this not ALREADY a law?

    IMO the situation is pretty clear: drones are not allowed to fly more than 400 feet up. (Or something like that)

    Lower than 400 feet, a drone over personal property is at the very least annoying, and at worst is highly capable of serious invasions of privacy.

    This should be a no-brainer.

    I love drones, and I know some very respectful drone pilots, but considering the number of incidents we’ve had in Southern California recently with drones flying near wildfires, drones flying near airports, and even drones trying to smuggle drugs across the border, (or into a prison, I heard?) …clearly the morons out there are running rampant and need to be curtailed asap.

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