With drones becoming one of the most popular gifts this past holiday season, millions of new aircraft will take to the skies this year. The FAA was able to predict the sensation and implemented a bunch of new rules on flying them, along with requiring almost all drones to undergo a registration process on the agency's website. One would imagine that the regulations in place would be enough to protect property and restricted air spaces, however the State of California disagrees and is looking to implement more rules on drone use.
There are currently two different bills being passed around California, each by a different lawmaker, that would add more regulations to drone use in the state. One of the new laws, if passed, would make it a requirement that all drones have a "tiny physical or electronic license plate" attached to the aircraft. The other bill would see to it that pilots who cause damage with their drones would have to leave contact information with the other party, much like one has to do with car accidents.
What's the cause for all of the increased regulation on these new flying devices? Well, considering California's ability to blow things up out of proportion, drones have caused power outages, prevented fires from being put out and one drone even struck a baby, all in 2015. That was enough for Glendale, CA Assemblyman Mike Gatto to introduce a "$1 or so" insurance policy program that he is hoping will be passed. Gatto also wants to require all drones come with a kill switch that will immediately disable the drone when it approaches an airport. I think we overlooked how dangerous that can be in practice, but again, this is California.
I think 2015 showed us that in the era of democratized aviation, certain types of incidents will be fairly common. More and more people are buying these and that's great. This is just like the 1920s when more and more people were buying cars, but I just think that we need some basic rules going forward.
Gatto hopes that he can introduce the bill next week and that it will be passed relatively quickly. Similarly, Monterey Park, CA Assemblyman Ed Chau says that drone accidents are increasing and owners should be responsible for the damages. I'm completely on board with the idea of making pilots accountable for their actions, and Chau hopes that this good practice will simply become a law.
Unfortunately, as the number of drones in the air will only increase in the coming years, we are going to see more and more accidents. And even with world-class safety features and training, accidents are still going to happen, just like on our roadways. If a drone breaks down, runs out of power or crashes into something, the operator needs to do the responsible thing and come forward and identify himself to the victim and to the police. This bill will make that responsibility the law.
That bill is currently in review within California's legislation system. Interestingly, drone bills in the past have been vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown, who shot down a bill in September that asked to ban drone use over private residences at altitudes of 350 feet or less. Some of the newly-proposed bills are far less restrictive than that, and it would seem likely that the bill to require owners to report and admit damage will end up becoming a law. After all, drones are known to the State of California to cause birth defects, or something like that.