On July 1, 2019, several states will enact new drone laws. Citizens need to be aware of the changes and how the changes will impact them. Kentucky is an outlier with its new drone law going into effect on June 27, 2019.
A few states are tackling drones flying near prisons and the problem with drones used to deliver contraband to inmates. Florida, Georgia, and Kentucky have new laws going into effect to combat this problem; each law also establishes penalties for violating the regulations. Earlier this year, Georgia reported an all-time high number of drone sightings near prisons.
Tennessee is taking a big step to prevent incidents like the one that happened over two NFL stadiums in 2017 when a man used a drone to drop leaflets over the crowd. One of Tennessee's new drone laws will make it a criminal act to drop items from a drone into an open-air venue.
States with upcoming drone law changes:
Kentucky (Effective June 27, 2019)
Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin signed Kentucky Senate Bill 157 on March 25, 2019. The new law will make it a criminal act to fly a drone over a prison without prior authorization. The law defines a prison as a “key infrastructure asset,” and makes violations a Class B misdemeanor for a first offense, and a Class A misdemeanor for a second or subsequent offense.
Florida (Effective July 1, 2019)
On June 18, 2019 Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis approved House Bill 7057. This new law redefines the term "critical infrastructure facility" to include certain detention centers and correctional facilities for the purpose of restrictions on the operation of unmanned aircraft. This new provision makes it unlawful to fly over or near a prison or correctional facility in the state of Florida.
Georgia (Effective July 1, 2019)
On April 28, 2019, Georgia Governor Kemp signed SB6 into law which prohibits the use of UAS to deliver or attempt to deliver contraband to a place of incarceration. It also prohibits anyone from using drones to photograph any place of incarceration without permission of the warden or superintendent. Any person who commits or attempts to commit a violation will face a felony charge and jail time.
Nevada (Effective July 1, 2019)
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak approved and signed two drone bills into law.
AB83 is now Chapter 139: This law makes it unlawful for anyone to harass game mammals or game birds through the use of a manned or unmanned aircraft. The law further outlines that it’s unlawful to shoot at any game mammal or game bird with a weapon from a manned or unmanned aircraft. It’s also unlawful to spot or locate game mammals or game birds with any kind of manned or unmanned aircraft to communicate that information, back to a person on the ground to trap or hunt.
SB421 is now Chapter 551: This law will establish and carry out a program to facilitate the growth and safe integration of small unmanned aircraft systems in Nevada. The program will comply with all applicable federal statutes, rules and regulations.
South Dakota (Effective July 1, 2019)
South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem approved House Bill 1073. This bill will allow residents to use a drone to locate or spot a predator or varmint on privately owned land except during the months of September, October, or November.
Tennessee (Effective July 1, 2019)
In April 2019, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed two new laws about drones.
SB0349/HB0154 became Pub. Ch. 40: This law makes it a criminal act to drop items or substances from unmanned aircraft into an open-air event venue where more than 100 persons are gathered for a ticketed event. Violating the law will result in a Class C misdemeanor.
SB0306/HB0308 became Pub. Ch. 60: This law increases the penalty for using an unmanned aircraft over a critical infrastructure facility without the business operator's consent from a Class C misdemeanor to a Class E felony. The law also adds “communication service facilities” to the types of facilities that are considered critical infrastructure facilities.
Virginia (Effective July 1, 2019)
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam approved Virginia Senate Bill 1507 on March 22, 2019. This law amends an existing law related to drone use by law enforcement officers. The law adds to the ways law enforcement can use unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) without a warrant. This law allows law enforcement officers to deploy an unmanned aircraft system to:
1. survey a primary residence of the subject of the arrest warrant to formulate a plan to execute an existing arrest warrant or capias for a felony offense or,
2. locate a person sought for arrest when such person has fled from a law-enforcement officer and a law- enforcement officer remains in hot pursuit of such person.