In December, 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a new rule. As of February 19, 2016, any unregistered drone owner operating a craft that weighs more than 0.55 pounds is committing a federal felony punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment and $277,500 in civil and criminal fines. This is an alarming instance of overcriminalization, made all the worse because it is unnecessary—drones may be relatively new, but the same cannot be said for their known harms or risks.
When the FAA rushed its recreational drone-owners’ registry into effect over a two-month period, it did so largely based on the determination that “the risk [from rapidly proliferating drones] to manned aviation or people and property on the ground was immediate.”
There is reason to doubt these claims. Not only are the threats posed by quadcopters largely hypothetical, they are also not unique to drones.
A better path forward would be to let drone technology evolve. As new use problems and situations develop, lawmakers can evaluate their impact. Local, state, and federal policymakers should promulgate new regulations or enact new laws only where truly novel harms arise.
This is the part that nobody paid attention to during the great Christmas drone scare of 2015.
Three years in jail and a quarter of a million dollar fine. Really? For flying a drone? For not providing an absolute bare minimum of unverified information and agreeing to put a number somewhere on your airframe? Or the same number on all your airframes? That no one would ever inspect.
It’s as bogus as the million unit Christmas forecast. And to the point of the article, I have a really hard time believing that this would be the go-to penalty for a DA prosecuting something really unthinkable caused by reckless jackassery.
I don’t know who the authors are except that they are obviously bright attorneys. And I certainly I don’t mean to offend a sincere group of Conservatives at the Heritage Foundation when I say that they sound a lot like Jerry Brown did when he vetoed a slew of bills in 2015, He sent back a number of bills arguing that there were already laws in place in California that dealt with the same issues and afforded the same protections. Seems like we have agreement on both sides of this particular aisle.