An estimated 700,000 new drones were expected to be purchased this past holiday season. What does that mean for the average American enjoying a quiet picnic in his or her backyard with friends and family when a stray drone makes an appearance? Do we have laws here in South Florida about what a drone can and cannot do, and are permits or registrations required? How can you safeguard your privacy and rights in this day and age of the drones?
Drone regulations are set in place by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which requires drones between .55 and 55 pounds to be registered by providing:
- Name, home address, and email address
- Failure to register may include civil fines of $27,500 and criminal fines of $250,000 and up to 3 years imprisonment
Here are some of the current regulations for the operation of small, unmanned aircraft
- All drones purchased before December 21, 2015 have until February 19, 2016 to register
- All drones purchased after December 21, 2015 must be registered before operating
- The operator must maintain line of sight with the drone
- It cannot be in a no-fly zone (airports)
- The drone can fly no higher than 400 feet
- May not exceed maximum airspeed of 100 mph
- The operator must be at least 13 years of age for recreational operation, and 17 years of age for commercial operation
- May only fly during daylight hours
Florida Drone Regulations
Florida law Section 934.50 (3) (b) expressly prohibits the use of a drone to capture an image of privately owned real property or the tenant, occupant, invitee, or licensee of such property with the intent to conduct surveillance without his or her written consent.
This law presumes that a person should have a reasonable expectation of privacy in his or her privately owned real property if not observable by persons located at ground level where they have a reasonable right to be. Obviously, if you are outside your home where others can see you, the drone is not doing anything that could not be done with a cell phone regarding photos and video.
The new drone law, signed in May 2015, gives people the right to sue drone operators, as well as collect attorney fees for the “prevailing party.”
One of the amendments to Section 934.50 passed in 2015 creates a definition for the term “surveillance,” as follows:
- With respect to an owner, tenant, occupant, invitee, or licensee of privately owned real property, the observation of such persons with sufficient visual clarity to be able to obtain information about their identity, habits, conduct, movements, or whereabouts;
- With respect to privately owned real property, the observation of such property’s physical improvements with sufficient visual clarity to be able to determine unique identifying features or its occupancy by one or more persons.
This could mean that every photo or video taken by a drone would fall under this definition of “surveillance.”
There are currently no criminal penalties associated with the law, but as a citizen, you may sue the drone operator if you are photographed or videotaped by the drone. You can also sue if any damage to property or bodily injury was suffered. You may be entitled to the following benefits:
- Payment for medical bills and continued medical treatment
- Lost wages
- Pain, suffering, disability, and inconvenience
- Replacement cost for property damage
There are currently lawsuits challenging the new laws and drone regulations, and this subject is expected to be heavily contested and debated for some time to come.
The Blaut Weiss Law Group represents victims in all types of accident, injury and insurance dispute cases throughout Florida. We are dedicated to providing our clients with personal service and aggressive representation. At Blaut Weiss, P.I. means that we are personally interested in every client and every case. If you are unsure of your legal rights, call our law offices at 954.634.1800 to evaluate your circumstances or visit our website at www.blautweiss.com