Drone Privacy and Safety Issues Pose Conundrum for Washington State


Washington State Rep. Jeff Morris, D-Mount Vernon, is continuing to push for state legislation surrounding the use of drones above both private and public property. The committee Morris chairs, the Washington House Technology & Economic Development Committee, recently held a hearing in an attempt to clarify these issues.

The purpose of the hearing was to obtain testimony surrounding House Bill 1049 that Morris recent introduced calling for increased regulations and penalties surrounding improper unmanned aircraft use. The basic tenants of the bill:

1) Requires a private drone with sensor equipment— such as a camera or video — to be labeled with the name and contact information of the owner.

2) Allows a private property owner to file a lawsuit against the owner of a trespassing drone if the property owner has already warned the drone owner, and the drone had previously ventured into the disputed airspace. The bill sets no state-mandated altitude dividing line between private and public airspace. However, Federal Aviation Administration rules keep private drones at less than 400 feet.

3) Entitles a property owner winning such a lawsuit to $5,000 and attorney fees from the losing drone owner. This is the seventh bill — including three by Morris — filed since 2015 in Washington state to address private drones flying over others’ private properties. In the past two years, six Senate and House bills by both Republicans and Democrats have been filed to govern private drones flying over others’ property. None made it to a full floor vote in either chamber.

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