Florida lawmakers want to restrict Drone use [4-28-15]

Posted: Apr 28, 2015 6:06 PM EDT
Updated: Apr 28, 2015 10:50 PM EDT
My Fox Tampa Bay
By: Evan Axelbank, FOX 13 News

Michael Blitch of Brandon met us on an empty field to show us his $2,000 unmanned aircraft.

“It operates within line of sight,” he said, as it soared hundreds of feet in the air.

The drone can be up to three-quarters of a mile away as he uses it to record videos in Europe of castles as a hobby.

He also runs a business shooting special events and videos for real estate agents.

“What I try to do is take my camera where my arms can’t otherwise reach.”

A law headed to the governor allows supposed victims to sue drone operators who had the “intent” to “surveil” them, or their property.

“Someone could possibly say someone is looking at my house,” said Blitch. “Well, how do you prove what the intent is?”

Blitch says another problem with the law is its definition of reasonable expectation of privacy.

The law says it’s anything you can’t ordinarily see from ground level.

How long is that going to be reasonable, given these devices are exploding in popularity, he asks?

“It’s a feel good law,” said Blitch. “It is just going to be used to prosecute those who lawfully operate this.”

Legal analyst Jeff Brown asks this question about the law that overwhelmingly passed both houses:

“If you have an expectation of privacy, why does it change if it is an unmanned drone compared to a helicopter?”

He agrees there are too many variables included in intent and privacy for the law to be effective in stopping a peeping tom any more than current laws already do.

“They are after stopping people from using drones. They are coming up with these false reasons behind it.”

The drone bill also allows a court to stop someone from using a drone altogether.

The restrictions also apply to state and local governments, though there are exceptions for property appraisers and public utilities.

The bill is an addition to a 2013 law that requires law enforcement to have a warrant before they use a drone to search.