It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s a Drone! Understanding Developing Drone Laws in California and Nevada

Posted on September 1, 2018

If you have visited one of Disney’s many theme parks recently, you may have noticed new objects flying around in the sky. Those are drones. Indeed, hundreds of flying drones light up the night sky changing colors and positions to create a spectacular visual experience. The drones have been pre-programmed to fly in synchronization and utilize up to fifty light-equipped aircraft that have the ability to recreate Disney characters in the sky. This nexus of art and technology is becoming a more prevalent medium for companies to demonstrate artistic uses of drones. Similar shows have been staged above Las Vegas’ Bellagio Fountain, at Coachella Music Festival and during the Super Bowl halftime show. This impressive display of lights is just one example of how drone technology is evolving.

Handheld drones are also very popular amongst hobbyists and professionals alike. They can be used to film movies and events and are also beginning to be used in sports photography. As drones become more popular, however, accidents are becoming a more common occurrence too. Injury or death may occur if a drone malfunctions or is not properly operated by its operator. And if this is the case, you will need the help of a personal injury attorney in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, or wherever the incident occurred.

What are the Drone Laws in California?

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulates the use of drones nationally. All aircraft that weigh less than 55 pounds must be registered before their first flight. To become a pilot of an unmanned aircraft system you must be 16 years of age and pass an initial aeronautical knowledge exam. The FAA also requires that you only fly during daylight hours or with appropriate anti-collision lighting during twilight hours. You cannot fly higher than 400 feet above the ground or faster than 100 miles per hour. California has also adopted their own unique drone laws. Under California Civil Code Section 1708.8, “a person is liable for physical invasion of privacy when the person knowingly enters onto the land or into the airspace above the land of another person without permission or otherwise commits a trespass in order to capture any type of visual image, sound recording, or other physical impression of the plaintiff engaging in a private, personal, or familial activity and the invasion occurs in a manner that is offensive to a reasonable person.” California is also currently in the process of installing more comprehensive drone laws and most cities and counties are passing their own ordinances and municipal codes regulating drone usage. As drone technology evolves, drone law will evolve too.

What are the Drone Laws in Nevada?

Similar to California, Nevada has their own laws regulating drone usage within the state. Under AB239, unmanned aerial vehicles may be flown and operated in the state of Nevada as long as they are not weaponized. The bill also prohibits flying a drone within 5 miles of an airport, under 250 feet over private property, or within 500 feet of a “critical facility.” A critical facility includes a petroleum refinery, a petroleum or chemical production, transportation, storage, or processing facility, a chemical manufacturing facility, a wastewater treatment facility, a mine, city or town jail or detention facility, and any prison facility or institution under the control of the Department of Corrections. Other pieces of legislation regulating drones have been introduced but are currently pending. These include provisions for trespassing and allowances for law enforcement.

Who is Liable for a Drone Accident?

Since most drones are operated by individuals, these operators have a legal obligation to operate the drones with reasonable care. If an individual operates a drone in a reckless or negligent matter and you are injured as a result, the operator may be held liable for their actions.

Drone manufacturers also have a legal duty to ensure the safety of their products. When defects in the design of a drone makes them inherently unsafe, manufacturers can also be held liable for any resulting injury or damages. If you were harmed by a defective drone you can pursue compensation by filing a product liability claim against the manufacturer, distributor, or retailer depending on the case.

And finally, when a drone is being used during an event such as a concert or wedding, property owners are responsible for ensuring the safety of their visitors and guests. If you have been a victim to a drone accident at an event where drones were being used for recording purposes, you may be able to pursue a premises liability claim if the property owner failed to ensure your safety.

Discuss your Claim with a Personal Injury Attorney

Drone injuries create unique legal issues that can make it difficult to determine who is liable for your injury. A lawyer can help explain the laws involved in your case, as well as determine who should be held liable for the damages incurred.

At Panish | Shea | Ravipudi LLP, we are experienced in the drone litigation arena. Presently, we are handling a case in Nevada where a woman was struck in the face by a drone while attending a pre-Fourth of July celebration at Caesars Palace. The drone crashed down during a light show causing severe injuries to the woman who was hit. Our lawsuit filed in Nevada District Court against the drone operator and hotel alleges that they were negligent and in violation of federal rules and regulations, including a rule that prohibits the operation of unmanned aerial vehicles over any persons not directly participating in the operation of the drone.

If you have been injured in a drone related accident, a conversation with an attorney can help you understand your rights. Call Panish | Shea | Ravipudi LLP about your case today at (310) 477-1700.

Disclaimer:  Legal information presented at this site should not be considered formal legal advice, nor the formation of a lawyer or attorney client relationship. Prior results do not guarantee or predict a similar outcome with respect to any future matter. Please note that you are not considered a client until you have signed a retainer agreement and your case has been accepted by us.

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