First Amendment

Florida’s new drone privacy bill affects multiple industries

150 150 Joel Leppard

drone

The global market for non-military drones has recently been estimated as a $2.5 billion industry that is continuing to grow. While Fortune 500 companies such as Amazon are investigating potential drone use for their delivery service, less publicized industries are also prepared for drone operation. The benefits of drones to the agriculture, construction, energy and mining industries are immeasurable say experts who study the commercial impact of drones.

GoFarm LLC, a Michigan-based agri-data business, performs field surveys by using drones to collect imagery in visible and non-visible bands to determine health of crops (see video here).  The imagery that the company collects can be used to provide detailed assessments of fields and individual plants.

There is, however, great risk that comes with collecting data using drones. Beyond the obvious risk of property damage from wayward drones, many jurisdictions are passing legislation aimed at privacy concerns. On May 14, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a drone privacy bill into law. The bill establishes a private right of action for people photographed in their homes by drones without their consent.

Laws such as this one affect more than just drone-based companies. Chuck Tobin, a partner with Holland & Knight LLP and leader of the firm’s drone practice team, said the law infringes on the rights of the news media.

“It has no consideration of news events, news value, or any real thought of vantage point from public places,” he told the Business Journal in a phone interview. “It’s riddled with First Amendment issues.”

Tobin also said that using drones for photography is a much cheaper and safer way for broadcast news outlets to gather news than from a helicopter, which have actually killed reporters in crashes.

Now that the new law is in place, companies must alter their operations to comply with local rules and regulations, and members of the press must be careful not to upset homeowners when utilizing drone images in news stories.

Learn more about how the new law is affecting the news media here: http://www.bizjournals.com/jacksonville/news/2015/05/18/floridas-new-drone-laws-could-create-big-problems.html

Learn more about how the new law is affecting drone-based companies here: http://nationallawforum.com/2015/05/21/as-drones-hit-the-sky-lawsuits-predicted-to-fly/

 

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