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Drones in Florida — New Laws and Regulations

07/21/2015
Aviation Disasters
BY

If you are one of the cool kids, or cool adults, or a techie, you might have received a drone for a gift during the past year.  Like a toy out of the future, drones allow observation from above and afar.  They are very cool. And, it was pretty much the Wild West concerning what you could do with your drone, until a new law went into effect in Florida on July 1st.  The new law expanded restrictions on the use of drones by both private citizens and local and state agencies alike.

As of midnight on July 1, 2015, the Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act went into effect and stated that drones cannot be used for unlicensed surveillance.  What that means is it that it is now unlawful to “capture an image of privately owned real property or of the owner, tenant, occupant, invitee or licensee of such property with the intent to conduct surveillance without his or her written consent.”  The ban applies to any individual, state agency or political subdivision and was approved unanimously in the Florida House and by a 37-2 margin in the Florida Senate.  The ban includes the use of drones by state and local law enforcement agencies unless they have obtained a warrant, there appears to be an immediate danger posed to life or property or to combat terrorism.

Governor Scott said that the expansion of the drone laws in Florida, “maintains a balance between the need for law enforcement to protect our citizens against credible threats and imminent danger while ensuring that the privacy of Florida families is protected.”  The measure was backed by politicians and parties on both sides of the aisle, including the American Civil Liberties Union and conservative Republicans.

The step is seen by supporters as a way to protect a Floridians right to privacy, meaning Floridians are now protected is someone flies a drone over your property to look down upon them sunbathing at his/her backyard pool or to look into the windows of their home or business to see what is going on in a place where privacy should be expected.

There currently is no criminal penalty associated with this newly-enacted bill, but the drone operator can be sued if damages can be proven.

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