Florida is one of a handful of states establishing laws that regulate how personal drones can be used. Florida’s law goes farther than most of the laws passed by states in protecting privacy rights. Most of the laws passed this last year dealing with drone usage address what the police can and can not do, but Florida’s new law is very specific as to what private drone operators are allowed to do and what can happen if they break the law.
This law comes in an answer to an industry that has taken off in recent years. A recent report by Fortune concludes that the unmanned aircraft industry will have an economic impact of more than $80 billion in the next ten years, and that report is from 2013 before the relatively new phenomenon of flying privately owned drones became so popular in the U.S.
Today anyone can buy a drone. Many of the drones that are available rival military and government technology from only years ago. Today’s drones can fly at ever-increasing heights, carry high-powered, high definition cameras, and even become weaponized. The technology evolves and becomes more sophisticated and complex with every passing year.
Provisions of Florida’s New Law
It was in this environment that Florida’s legislature decided to do something about the use of drones within the state. Florida Statute 934.50 is known as the “Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act.” The act regulates two primary uses of drones:
How drones are used by law enforcement;
How drones are used by private people.
As far as law enforcement is concerned, Florida’s new drone law prohibits any law enforcement agency from using drones to collect evidence or conduct surveillance. The police or other law enforcement agency can get a warrant from a judge to search using a drone, but otherwise the police are prohibited from using drones to do police work over private property.
Private owners of drones are also prohibited from using their drones to take pictures or video of private property. The definition of private property is property that can not be seen from people at ground level from a place they have a legal right to be. This prohibition goes further than that against law enforcement.
Florida’s new drone law provides a private legal remedy if the law is broken. For example, if you neighbor owns a drown that he flies over your property and uses to take pictures, you can sue him for invasion of privacy. Although you may not win much in damages, you would be allowed to recover your attorney’s fees for bringing and winning the action. This is a big step towards protecting privacy rights against drone use.
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