Are you thinking of buying a remote-controlled drone this year? You may want to think again. Florida lawmakers have been a little slow to catch up with Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) tech over the past few years, but they are catching up fast. Last Tuesday, a Florida Senate committee voted 5-4 to propose a measure that will make drone operators liable for negligence and property damage caused by a “fly-away” UAS.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has estimated that up to 1 million UAS or “drones” could be sold this holiday season. Florida, no doubt, will get their share of novice drone operators.
- Know where you are flying. FAA regulations are still a bit murky regarding drone aircraft. RC planes currently cannot fly more than 400 feet Above Ground Level (AGL), must remain in constant line-of-sight, and cannot operate within 5 miles of any airport. There are 68 RC Airfields in the state of Florida, including local ones in Newberry, Keystone Heights, and Archer.
- Get out of town! While operating a UAS is perfectly legal on your private property, it is subject to privacy concerns for your neighbors. Earlier this year, Florida lawmakers signed into law a statute against “search and seizures using a drone.” This law was directed toward law enforcement but certainly incorporates the drone hobbyist as well. Federal law also prohibits flying over public venues such as stadiums, concerts, and other panic events.
- Check the Weather. Drones are notorious for being weather sissies. They are lightweight and very sensitive to wind and inclement weather. Although you may be anxious to take little Johnny out for a fly on Christmas morning, make sure the weather is calm, so your first flight isn’t your last.
- Do you need a permit? Any drone operator planning to use their equipment for profit must obtain an FAA commercial exemption permit to do so. There is currently a backlog of these permits, so planning is essential.
For any other questions or information regarding UAV/UAS operation and safety, you can visit the Know Before You Fly website, which is endorsed by the FAA.
Property damage and personal injury from drones have very little case law grounded in the state of Florida. If you have a claim, it may difficult to navigate the state and federal laws that govern drone negligence and liability. If you have property damage or injury due to a drone, call the law office of Massey & Duffy at (352) 505-8900 today to schedule a consultation.
Update: due to the developments in the regulations regarding these unmanned aircraft, several updates need to be made:
- ALL aircraft weighing more than 0.55 lbs. (250 grams) MUST be registered with the FAA regardless if they are being operated for commercial or recreational purposes. This is a major change since before the new regulations, only commercial aircraft or aircraft operated for some type of profit had to be registered.
- Registration must be completed using the registration form provided with the purchase or by utilizing the FAA’s new web-based registration system. Owners/operators who are found operating a UA without registration certificate are subject to criminal and/or civil penalties.
- Registered drones will receive an FAA-issued registration number which MUST be clearly marked on the aircraft.
- There is a $5.00 registration fee, however, all current and new UA owners will have their fee refunded immediately if they register before January 20th, 2015.
The change in FAA regulation is likely linked to questions regarding the liability of property damage as well as the sharp increase in airspace violations over the last few months. If you have recently purchased or received a drone as a gift, you can visit the FAA’s Q&A website for more information. New rules regarding drones go into effect on December 21st, 2015, just in time for the squadrons of new aircraft ready to take flight on December 25th.
Unmanned Aerial Systems are expected to be one of the most popular gifts this Christmas, with an estimated 1 million units being sold in the United States. The new registration policy will make it easier for law enforcement to trace a UA back to its original owner in case of illegal use or in the event the UA causes damage to property or personal injury. If you or a loved one is victim to damage or injury caused by a drone in the Gainesville, Ocala, Lake City, or surrounding areas, please call our office at (352) 505-8900, and we will schedule you for a consultation.