|Harvest photo taken from a UAV.|
Indiana is a good example. In 2014, the Indiana legislature passed HB1009, which requires a law enforcement officer to obtain a warrant to use a UAV for police purposes. The bill also contains a number of exceptions, such as for "search and rescue" or a "natural disaster," or for "exigent circumstances." But absent one of these exceptions, law enforcement in Indiana cannot fly drones to look for or gather evidence of criminal activity. I.C. 35-33-5.
Indiana's law also includes a provision that potentially criminalizes drone usage if the pilot takes video or pictures of another person or property without their consent. I.C. 35-46-8.5-1 states:
A person who knowingly or intentionally places a camera or electronic surveillance equipment that records images or data of any kind while unattended on the private property of another person without the consent of the owner or tenant of the private property commits a Class A misdemeanor.
Although this statute does not require the electronic surveillance to be done by a drone, considering it was lumped in with the rest of the drone bill I think the legislative intent is pretty clear. Use a drone to take pictures or video of a neighbor's property and you risk a misdemeanor charge.
Other states have passed similar statutes. Raymond L. Mariani wrote in The Brief, an American Bar Association (ABA) journal, that as of the summer of 2014, "thirteen states have already passed law that place restrictions on UAS usage." These include Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Montana, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginian and Wisconsin.
|UAVs hold much promise for agriculture. Crop consultants|
and farmers can tell much from the patterns observed from
photos like this. Photos compliments of @TheChadColby
These laws are evolving and changing, so please do not assume my summary here is the current state of the law. Do your own research before flying in your state to make sure you aren't committing a crime when taking to the skies.
When the FAA eventually does introduce UAV regulations, the United States will have a real legal mess since there will already be multiple state laws on the books. What happens when the FAA says a certain use is legal, but a state criminalizes it? That will be a new issue for aviation law, as far as I can tell, since regulation of aircraft has primarily been left to the FAA and states have, for the most part, not interjected themselves into aircraft regulation.
By Todd Janzen
Raymond L. Marianai's article, "Rise of Drones," is featured in the ABA's The Brief, Summer 2014. This article is not available online.