Drones have been a top selling product for children and adults alike for years now. Online, you can see unprecedented weather footage and aerial views that would otherwise been undocumented. However, remote controlled (RC) drones are also creating buzz regarding legal use. Drones present flight hazards to airplanes and privacy hazards when used in certain ways. Now, drone operators are getting into legal trouble because of their recreational drone use.
The laws are constantly changing regarding drone use in California. The best way to get up-to-date information about individual use is to do some internet research and confirm your findings with a legal expert who has been following the progress.
Toys and professional drones are all subject to the laws and regulations set forth in each state and at a federal level. It does not matter how small, expensive, or functional your drone is; you could be fined for using it in the wrong area.
As a general rule, this is how drone operators should approach flying:
- Recognize that your drone could be considered an aircraft. If your drone is flying in certain areas and above certain heights, you could face thousands of dollars in fines for failing to adhere to current rules. The FAA requires that drone operators keep their devices no more than 400 feet from the ground and to maintain visibility at all times.
- Avoid airports, military bases, and national parks. You can be fined and have your device confiscated in these areas. It is also recommended that drone operators avoid places that are heavily populated like urban environments and at events.
- Do not take pictures of people with your drone. In California, if you are caught taking pictures of individuals during times when they should expect relative privacy (e.g. a trespassing scenario), you could be fined up to $50,000.
- Avoid flying for commercial purposes. As of now, drones are only permitted for recreational use. Do not use an RC drone for commercial purposes.
As more laws are discussed, developed, and passed, the ability to fly RC drones for recreational purposes will likely become more limited. Avoid flying your drone if you have reservations about the legality of the location. You may accidentally find yourself liable for thousands of dollars in fines and other penalties depending on the jurisdiction.
When to Contact an Attorney
You may need legal advice regarding RC drones to help you understand local laws, protect your rights as a drone operator, or hold an irresponsible drone user accountable for his or her actions. Contact us if you:
- Know someone has used a drone to acquire private information from you
- Are being accused of flying your drone in a protected space
- Are being accused of using your drone for illegal purposes
- Have been injured by a falling or flying drone
Since drone law is so new, only an experienced attorney who understands the local, state, and federal laws can help you address your case. At Curran & Curran Law in San Diego, we specialize in aviation law and cases regarding aircraft and drones. We understand the importance of addressing these early legal concerns fully and appropriately, and we maintain the latest information on drone advancements, laws, and legal cases. If you have questions or a legal concern about RC drones, reach out to us for more information.
Drones can be a fun way to improve your cinematographic and aerial photography skills, but it can also be a safety hazard and infringe on others’ privacy. Let our team of experienced attorneys help you with your drone case so you can get back to your life.