California Close To Creating No-fly Zone Over Private Property

September 10th, 2015

UAVsCalifornia appears to be very close to creating no-fly zones over all private property. California SB-142 has been passed by the state legislature and as I understand it has been on Gov Brown’s desk since August 28.

As I understand it, SB-142 says you have to have express permission to fly a UAV over private property below 350′. So for real estate photography or videography this just means you have to get neighbors permission. This seems reasonable to me. Seems like standard courtesy would suggest that you get permission from neighbors to shoot video if you need to fly over their property.

One seemingly valid objection is that states don’t control airspace in the US. Only the federal government is chartered to control airspace. So perhaps this law won’t withstand legal challenges but in the long-term but in the short-term it would make sure UAV pilots exercise standard courtesy.

Update 9/10/2015 afternoon: It looks like Gov Jerry Brown vetoed the bill. See: the article in wired from a short time ago.

Share this

11 Responses to “California Close To Creating No-fly Zone Over Private Property”

  • @sean – I missed that… thanks for pointing that out! Just happened this afternoon.

  • That GREAT it was vetoed…. but does anyone know where “airspace” starts? I mean is it 10 feet about a house?… or is it 20 feet above the ground?

    Just curious

  • Think about this, a property can easily have 5 neighbors. One on either side, one directly behind and two behind at the corner. So you would have to get signatures of 5 different people in order to shoot photos that don’t involve them. That is just foolish. We don’t have to get permission to shot other outside photos of a property. Heck, we can even legally take photos from the street of any property. Yet when the word drone is used, all logic and historical precedence goes out the window. Maybe we should just state that we use unsupported, elevated platforms to take the photos, then maybe some logic will return.

  • Patrick, Airspace starts at the ground and extends up – there is no other space between the ground and “airspace”.

  • From the Wired article, “Brendan Schulman, the vice president of policy and legal affairs for drone maker DJI” – I see Mr Schulman being quoted quite often by people advocating for unrestricted commercial RCMA usage and it’s important to know affiliations when considering somebody’s opinions online. Especially lawyers.

    @Patrick, airspace starts above the ground. The FAA’s decision to create certain policies can be based on the type of aircraft and where it is operated. When I worked in aerospace, the experimental permit that the company I worked for operated under for several vehicles required the filing of a NOTAM (notice to airmen) at least 24hours in advance and an email notification to the local FAA/CST rep of the planned flight profile. These notifications were required even if we were only going to hover our rockets a half inch above the test stand while tethered. The rockets were vertical take off/vertical landing reusable vehicles for sub-orbital flights.

    It should be common courtesy to inform neighbors that aerial photos will be captured on a given date and time. A simple note delivered to each surrounding home is fine in my opinion (if they’re within a few hundred feet). If one would like to fly directly over somebody’s home or property to “get the shot”, it would be good manners to get their permission a day or two in advance. This sort of thing is why it’s always good to get along with your neighbors. For rural homes where the nearest adjacent home might be thousands of feet away, there shouldn’t be any requirement to notify or get permission as they probably won’t even notice.

    I haven’t seen any stories in the paper or online, but my cousin is getting PO’d over RCMA operators buzzing him and others while they’re surfing in Huntington Beach. Somebody may get “spoken to” for operating recklessly one day and it won’t be pretty. This is the sort of thing that is motivating law makers to come up with restrictions that might not be well thought out or even reasonable. They want to be seen doing something and a knee-jerk response is “doing something”.

    Smoking is legal, but it is not legal on the beach. RCMA’s may be legal, but that doesn’t preclude laws being passed in the name of health/safety that could still hold up against the argument that they® are regulating airspace that falls under Federal law.

  • Ken makes a good point having the homeowner get the neighbor’s signature(s) at least a day beforehand. If done immediately prior to the shoot, what if they are not home. Plus it needs to be a physical signature, like a model release, to avoid after the fact, he said/she said. That is also assuming the Realtor will tolerate a couple of days delay to get it listed.

    FAA and airspace is only tip of the iceberg and local jurisdictions can totally avoid it in their regulations. California could easily do this as they re-work the vetoed bill. Local/State can easily codify health and safety, even copy/paste the FAA published guidelines – stadiums, over people, 5 miles from airport (FAA just says “airport” and doesn’t specify if control tower or not), national parks (add State and local parks), line of sight, etc. Local municipalities can easily amend their existing noise/nuisance ordinances. That, to me, has the higher probability of creating a $1500 door stop than FAA regulations and what holds me back. Every time I read a story of “incidents” that news agencies love to publish, that is what I think of as it pus more and more pressure on local and State officials to address as people complain. Of course, local laws probably won’t exempt out hobbyist – who generally cause the trouble/news event, anyway and make it universal. Some Realtors in my office have asked me and I have to point out that the office and zip codes/neighborhoods they prospect are within 5 miles of an airport with a control tower. Locally, hobbyist currently fly within 5 miles, including around a ‘signature/landmark’ lake that is on the direct flight path of the runways.

    Another one that had me thinking was the news even when a hobbyist was flying at a park, assaulted by a lady which he caught on his cell phone verbally asking her to stop assaulting him, and destroying the version she told police when they arrive. She was arrested. I began thinking, what if the FAA finally got their proposed regulation enacted, this was a commercial shoot with operator and aircraft registered with flight plan filed per the regulations. Same thing happens. Would it be an assault under local laws, or would federal anti-hijacking laws apply – interfering with a licensed pilot in control of a registered aircraft. Something to think about as doesn’t have to be an assault, but simply creating an issue, like a disorderly passenger on a plane.

  • This issue certainly has a lot of legs… like a spider! I get the FAA wanting regulations regarding airspace and there are of course always the lowest common denominators who would neglectfully cause injury or damage, but I think there is another issue at hand. The issue of privacy. I would personally feel a tad bit uneasy if I wasn’t fully made aware of the purpose of a drone flying over and around my house in advance. One could even assume that a pilot could, if he had the right equipment peer into windows. The world is a different place now and people feel less and less secure in their own environment. However I think the property owner who is likely to have relationships with the neighbors should take responsibility for permissions prior to setting up the shoot. If this is the wave of the future for RE photography then everyone needs to understand the implications and the “new normal” for how this type of business is conducted. How you go about regulating it, is anyone’s guess at this point…

  • I have never envisioned a drone for normal residential property, farms and ranches are another story though and that’s what I was considering drone use for.

  • @Larry Gray, I only advocate getting signed permission from neighbors when/if one plans on overflying their property. The rest of the time I suggest leaving a note a couple of days in advance at the neighbors homes to let them know what’s going on. Trying to get signatures from everybody is too burdensome.

    @Bill, I know a realtor in Newport Beach, CA that insists on having aerial photos of all of his listings. I’ve tried to talk him out of doing it for every home since most houses in Newport Beach are packed tightly together. The aerial photos simply emphasize how close the homes are to each other. For larger properties with out-buildings, barns and horse arenas, aerial photos are a great way to tie the ground level photos together. I find many aerial compositions too “roofy” and (over) used as more of a gimmick.

    There is an agent in a neighboring city that uses RCMA aerial photography for her listings and then takes horrible interior pictures with her cell phone. I think she would be better off using the money spent on the aerials to hire a professional photographer (me) to make quality photos from ground level. The homes are all above $500K with some over $1million, so there should be budget for both to start with. For just a tiny little bit of her commission she could trounce a bunch of her competition. Instead, there are agents based over an hour’s drive away competing for those listings and getting them using poor photos as well.

  • @Ken – Too funny, aerial followed up with cell phone pics, sounds like a great allocation of marketing $.

Comments RSS

Leave a Reply