Senator Padilla Introduces Bill to Regulate Drones in California

December 03, 2012

Sacramento–Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) introduced Senate Bill 15 today which is the first attempt in California to establish regulations on domestic use of drones, also known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).

The federal government has taken action to accelerate both the public and commercial deployment of drones in U.S. airspace. In addition to the United States military, NASA, the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Forest Service, local law enforcement and academic institutions are using drones. The FAA is projecting that the number of commercial drones in U.S. airspace could exceed 10,000 within 5 years.

“I am concerned because domestic drones have the potential to be used for surreptitious surveillance activities that infringe upon fundamental constitutional rights. We must ensure that there are clear guidelines in place that protect the rights of all Californians,” said Padilla.

“As this technology advances and becomes more widely used, it is imperative that we have clear standards in place for their safe and reasonable use and operation in order to protect the public. I believe that there are legitimate reasons for concern about privacy, civil liberties and public safety,” Padilla said.

“The pace at which government reacts to developments in science and technology is often too slow. Technology is deployed and only later are the impacts to safety and privacy considered. While public and privately operated drones can have a legitimate role in areas such as agriculture, scientific research, and public safety, such systems present new challenges to the privacy and due process rights of all Californians,” Padilla said.

Drones have come to the public’s attention during the last several years through use by various governmental agencies in the war on terror. UAVs range in size from model aircraft to semi-automated aircraft that contain sophisticated command and control and data recording systems capable of operating within the National Airspace System. They have the ability to deploy cameras and sensors and collect data across a broad range of electromagnetic spectrum, both within and beyond the range of the human eye. Drones will increasingly be used for commercial purposes that may include advertising, communications and broadcasting, pipeline and farm fence inspections, vehicular traffic monitoring, real-estate and construction-site photography, relaying telecommunication signals, fishery protection and monitoring, and crop dusting.

Recently, the International Association of Chiefs of Police issued its first national advisory on the use of unmanned aircraft by local law enforcement, and urged that the aircraft not be armed.