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Question of the week
This week Jerry Brown, governor of California, vetoed SB 142, a controversial drone privacy bill. First, thanks to those of you who stood with us in opposition to this bill — it was overly broad and would have stifled innovation and commerce in the state, not to mention infringed on first amendment rights and the freedom of hobbyists.
However, there’s a second drone privacy bill before Brown now. AB 856, otherwise known as the Calderon bill, has already passed both houses of the state legislature. It’s different from SB 142, which prohibited all flights for any reason under 350 feet over private property, in that it merely extends existing privacy law to the air: “This bill would expand liability for physical invasion of privacy to additionally include a person knowingly entering into the airspace above the land of another person without permission, as provided.” Violators would be “subject to a civil fine of not less than five thousand dollars ($5,000) and not more than fifty thousand dollars ($50,000).”
We do need some sort of rules in place here. And the Calderon bill is much more reasonable in scope than SB 142 was. It’s also worth noting that California, by far the most populous state, often sets a precedent for laws and regulations adopted more broadly across the country. However, the FAA is currently charged with regulating all national airspace. So: Where does the FAA’s jurisdiction end? Should aerial privacy laws be turned over to state and local governments, who can more exactly tailor laws to their constituency’s needs? Or will this overly complicate the governing of an already complex airspace?
I’d like to hear your thoughts on this important and difficult question — feel free leave to them below.
And now, the top drone news from this week.
California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a controversial drone privacy bill passed by the state legislature. (3DR)
Sen. Chuck Schumer is introducing an amendment to a bill that funds the FAA; the amendment requires manufacturers to outfit drones with geofencing software that wouldn’t permit flight within two miles of an airport or over 500 feet. The amendment would also endorse the creation of regulations prohibiting flight over “sensitive areas,” such as stadiums. (ABC)
The UK has issued its first fine to a drone operator. Nigel Wilson was fined £1800 and banned from flying drones after posting videos to his YouTube channel of aerials taken at least 100 meters above Premier League, Champions League and Championship soccer matches. (The Guardian)
China’s Civil Aviation Authority has opened the country’s first official drone-flying schools. (Shanghaiist)
Qualcomm, a company that makes the internal processors for a number of cellphones (and a 3DR investor), has announced that it’s now getting in the drone game. Its new Snapdragon Flight processor will corral multiple drone components — navigation, camera operation, communication, etc. — into a single board, ultimately leading to lighter and smaller drones. (Popular Science)
Drones have recently disrupted sporting events, but their potential for filming them is truly great, as outlined in this article from Slate.
In order to make landings easier in volatile environments — at sea, for instance — DARPA has outfitted drones with robotic legs. (Popular Science)
Dubai, the host city of the annual international competition Drones for Good, is looking past oil and to drones as a future major industry. (BBC)
And truly, we’ve seen some incredible economic projections for the drone industry. Turns out that wind turbine inspection alone could generate $6 billion a year within a decade. The sunbathing monk offered no comment. (Motherboard)
Culture and commentary
Our CEO Chris Anderson, ahead of his keynote at InterDrone, speaks about his ideas for the future of regulation and safety in the skies: technology can solve the problems it creates. (TechCrunch)
The Academy of Model Aeronautics scrutinized the more than 750 “close-call” incidents between drones and manned aircraft that pilots reported to the FAA in the past year, finding only 27 were in fact near misses and only ten required evasive action. (USA Today)
And commercial pilots themselves don’t seem too worried about colliding with a drone: “I called up three airline pilots who fly for three major airlines, put the question to them, and got these three replies: ‘It’s not terribly concerning,’ says Boeing 757 pilot Helena Reidemar. ‘I’m not too worried about drones,’ said Boeing 737 pilot Scott Maclean. Airbus A320 pilot Doug Dupuie added: ‘I’m pretty unconcerned, I’d say.’” (Slate)
A Vancouver drone store — Drones Plus — has been burgled three times in the past two weeks. It’s released security camera footage in hopes of catching the thieves. (The Province)
And perhaps a little more artfully, an Indiana woman has been accused of using a fake credit card to buy drones from a hobby shop. She’s been charged with identity theft and possession of a counterfeit credit card. (Patch.com)
Police in Upper Hutt, New Zealand, are seeking the pilot who captured drone footage of a homicide. The police shot and killed a gunman in a local McDonald’s, and the footage shows medics trying to save the man’s life; police say it’s unlikely the drone pilot would be in any trouble. (The Dominion Post)
Every year, Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe holds a pigeon shoot fundraiser: Guests pay to shoot pigeons as they’re released into the air. This year an animal rights group called S.H.A.R.K. tried to capture aerial footage of the event with a drone, which was itself promptly shot down. The group is planning to sue Inhofe. (KRMG)
Drones on the runway at New York Fashion Week: “We wanted to incorporate drone technology into the show because the millennial woman is probably going to have her own drone in the next couple of years,” says Uri Minkoff, co-founder and CEO of clothing brand Rebecca Minkoff. (TechCrunch)
And to end things on a positive note: A coroner in Victoria, Australia, is urging civil authorities to use drones for tree inspection in the wake of the death of a four-year-old, when a limb fell on her from a decayed tree in a town park. (The Age)