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Government Technology

California Legislation Would Require License Plates, Insurance For Drones (arstechnica.com) 151

An anonymous reader writes: A pair of legislators in California have introduced separate pieces of legislation aimed at further regulating the nascent drone industry in the name of safety. Assemblyman Mike Gatto wants inexpensive insurance policies sold with drones, and also wants those drones to be outfitted with tiny license plates. He said, "If cars have license plates and insurance, drones should have the equivalent, so they can be properly identified, and owners can be held financially responsible, whenever injuries, interference, or property damage occurs." Another bill, put forth by Assemblyman Ed Chau, wants to require drone owners to leave contact information in the event of a crash. Chau also made parallels with cars: "If you lose control of your drone and someone gets hurt – or someone else's property gets damaged — then you should have the same duty to go to the scene of the accident, give your name and address, and cooperate with the police." The bills follow a number of incidents during 2015 in which drones damaged people and property, or simply got in the way of other operations.
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California Legislation Would Require License Plates, Insurance For Drones

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  • by jerk ( 38494 ) <cherbert.gmail@com> on Friday January 15, 2016 @05:59PM (#51310645)

    ...turn signals, mirrors, and a working horn.

    • by k6mfw ( 1182893 )
      and smog checks.
    • by Bearhouse ( 1034238 ) on Friday January 15, 2016 @06:17PM (#51310757)

      Well, why not the aeronautical equivalent for the bigger ones, at least.
      Sure, it's easy to mock and say "because California", but this time the boys from the land of nutjob legislation have a point.
      I impulse-bought a cheap drone I came across in the store to see what the fuss was about; no GPS or fancy self-guidance, just a remote control.
      Damn, that thing was hard to control at first, and I used to fly jet fighters - albeit a long time ago.

      So perhaps this is actually a better suggestion than the FAA "self-registration" scheme.
      Over a certain weight, you have to produce ID and included in the price is the registration fee and insurance for a year.
      If I get my head stoved-in by somebody's out of control drone, at least the medical is covered...

      • by Barny ( 103770 ) <bakadamage-slashdot@yahoo.com> on Friday January 15, 2016 @06:38PM (#51310881) Journal

        Yeah I really don't see this being bad, it is strangely coherent for legislators.

        • Here's what you need to know:

          > inexpensive ...for now.

          • inexpensive ...for now.

            This sums up pretty much all california legislation that puts the burden on citizens to register something.

        • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

          Technically they stopped just one bit short. They should also require the equivalent of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]. So a policing query signal can be sent to the drone and a response received back of it's registration (it already has transmitters and receivers built in). This unique identifier should tie back to the registered owner. No response and down goes that drone, taking out by a police hunter drone killer drone in a safe manner. If the drone is doing something naughty and a proper response r

          • You *could* put in an equivalent of an IFF box in civilian drones, but much like a MAC addy in network cards, it will probably be spoofed at first opportunity by someone wanting to use their drone for less-than-moral purposes. See also IMEI number mods in stolen phones as a real-world example.

            • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

              Make it illegal and when the owner responds that their drone is not active 'er' pick up the pieces and find out whose drone it really is ;).

        • by meerling ( 1487879 ) on Friday January 15, 2016 @09:47PM (#51311851)
          Except for the entire issue of a license plate itself. Either it's going to be too small to read at the normal range the drone will be sighted at, or too damn big and heavy to allow the drone to operate.
          I still don't see why people are so freaked out over the toy R/C Aircraft getting more popular these days, despite some idiot changing the name to 'drone'.
          You know they've been flying those things since before I was even born.
      • and insurance for a year.

        I'm still struggling with this one.
        Cars in California in 2013: 3,104 Persons Killed 223,128 Persons Injured.
        Drones in California: 0 Persons Killed: 0 Persons Injured (that I could find). I'm willing to guess damages can be counted in the hundred or thousands of dollars.

        What next, we get terrorism insurance? Hell I'm more likely to die in a terrorist attack than a drone attack. Maybe we should be registering them instead.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      And a man walking 100 yards in front with a holding a lantern and waving a red flag.

    • Well, how about the take on a more serious actual problem and require license plates, registration, insurance, and a proficiency test (to get a road license) for pushbikes?

      I mean, they are reasonably often involved in real accidents, a proportion of which are their fault (lets not get in to an argument about what ratio).
      Property damage happens, people are injured and killed, reasonably often.

      If Cars and Motorcycles are required to follow rules to use the public roads, why not pushbikes?

      Any no, I am most cer

    • And a sign that says: "This device may cause cancer."

  • It's about revenue. Anything CA can do to get a bit more revenue - it will do.
    • They are required to be registered and marked by the FAA.

      California typically charges essentially a property tax on aircrafts. Some try to avoid that by moving the aircraft out of state for most of the year.

      Plus, a property tax on a $600 drone won't even be worth paying a bureaucrat to process it. I guess thats never stopped California before.

      • IT will be in the form of fees. Every display screen sold in CA comes with a fee paid at the register to pay for recycling the screen. I paid a $3 recycling fee on an amazon fire tablet i purchased for $35, the fee was more than the sales tax.....Im sure drones will be just added on to that sort of thing. Its how they avoid it being a tax (which has strict rules in place compared to fees), when thats exactly what it is.
        • Good luck. Charging fees on drones is hard. tablets are easy because they are easily classified and fully assembled. They are also sold from mainstream companies.

          How are you going to do that with drones?

          $2 fee on the motor I bought from China? $5 for the frame?

          What's to stop you from 3d printing your own frame or buying a motor intended for an RC car?

          Many drones are assembled from parts shipped and sold directly from China. This will be a regulatory nightmare.

          It doesn't really even matter because no way Cal

    • It's about revenue. Anything CA can do to get a bit more revenue - it will do.

      I'd put greater weight on it being a gift to the plaintiff's bar. With a fat insurance company to go after instead of maybe just some unemployed schmuck with $1.14 in his checking account, there'll be a nice payday for everyone.

  • "...and also wants those drones to be outfitted with tiny license plates"

    One word... LOL! :-D
  • Not going to happen (Score:5, Interesting)

    by EmperorArthur ( 1113223 ) on Friday January 15, 2016 @06:01PM (#51310667)

    States have always tried to regulate their own airspace, and the FAA keeps having to smack them down.

    Seriously, if it's in the air states have no control.

    • States have always tried to regulate their own airspace, and the FAA keeps having to smack them down. Seriously, if it's in the air states have no control.

      California taxes the owners of "real" aircraft, there are no FAA objections. California is generally dealing with ownership, the FAA generally dealing with operations. California would seem to be legally clear to require owners to license and insure their drones.

    • Where did the founding fathers grant in the U.S. Constitution that the Federal government had the right to regulate the air? The Constitution states that all rights not specifically enumerated to the Federal government are to be left to the States. When did the SCOTUS settle this issue? Also It was my understanding the Federal government only regulated the air space above 500 feet, if that's the case then California is well within their right to regulate aircraft operating in the 0 to 500 feet ranage.

  • Only drones? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sperbels ( 1008585 ) on Friday January 15, 2016 @06:03PM (#51310675)
    Just in case they damage other people's property, the following things will also be required to have insurance and little license plates: RC aircraft/cars, baseballs, tennis balls, frisbees, nerf darts, shuttlecocks, boomerangs, bullets, your child's bike, and your child.
    • by DaHat ( 247651 )

      At the very least I would like to see bikes require to have visible license plates and drivers who are licensed and insured if they are to ride on the same roads as motorized vehicles, for the same reasons we require both for cars.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        except that those reasons don't exist for either bicycles or drones. The magnitude and incidence of damages/injuries caused by cars is large and often more than most people could pay for, that is not *generally* true of bicycles or drones (which for normal people are quad-copters).

        The lack of insurance in no way changes any aspect of liability for damages Insurance serves to "insure" that you could have the resource to pay for them.

        • by DaHat ( 247651 )

          The magnitude and incidence of damages/injuries caused by cars is large and often more than most people could pay for, that is not *generally* true of bicycles or drones (which for normal people are quad-copters).

          Except that 9 times out of 10 the car is going to get blamed, no matter how stupid the bike rider is who is more concerned over their perceived rights than physics.

          The lack of insurance in no way changes any aspect of liability for damages Insurance serves to "insure" that you could have the resour

    • You forgot guns.

    • by khchung ( 462899 )

      Just in case they damage other people's property, the following things will also be required to have insurance and little license plates: RC aircraft/cars, baseballs, tennis balls, frisbees, nerf darts, shuttlecocks, boomerangs, bullets, your child's bike, and your child.

      If, one day, these weight >2kg and can be *flown* and controlled over 100ft away, it would make sense to require insurance and license plates. As of now, the source of these things can be located pretty easily, and they (except bullets, unless it was thrown and not shot from a gun) did weight much and thus didn't cause much damage (compared to a drone).

      Say, if you child's bike can fly and can drop and break someone's roof 100ft away from your and your child, you bet it would require a license.

    • ...baseballs, tennis balls, frisbees, nerf darts, shuttlecocks, boomerangs, bullets, your child's bike...

      How many people run outside with their shotgun to shoot down baseballs, tennis balls, etc?

      • How many people run outside with their shotgun to shoot down baseballs, tennis balls, etc?

        Not many, but when the trap machine has been broken for a few weeks, you do what you have to.

    • I think we should insure terrorist activities. I'm far more likely to die or get injured of that than I am from a drone.

  • by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Friday January 15, 2016 @06:11PM (#51310721)

    "If you lose control of your drone and someone gets hurt – or someone else's property gets damaged — then you should have the same duty to go to the scene of the accident, give your name and address, and cooperate with the police."

    Don't drone operators *already* have to accept liability for damage/injury caused by their drone? With registration already mandatory, why will tiny little license plates improve anything? Those that are responsible will register their drone and will take responsibility for its operation. Those that are not responsible will just buy or print a fake "license plate" (or more likely, skip the license plate entirely) and fly their drone into a car and then walk away.

    • Those that are not responsible will just buy or print a fake "license plate" (or more likely, skip the license plate entirely) and fly their drone into a car and then walk away.

      and if the owner of the drone can be traced by other means, what then?

      The geek's willingness to amp up a routine civil case into a criminal one is astonishing.

    • You must of missed the large number of fatal or critical accidents that have happened in CA lately with drones. That is reason enough.
    • Then at least you will be able to track down the responsible owner if a drone crashes on your property. The owner may not know where exactly his drone crashed, but willing to take responsibility for any damages if you contact him.

      Here in NL this is not mandated by law for drones or RC aircraft, but most RC clubs require that operators put their name and address on a sticker inside the aircraft, and require the operator to join the national aviator's association as an RC Pilot member. Membership is
    • Don't people *already* have to accept liability for damage/injury caused by their activities?

      Is America a country where I can just walk up and break your window and that's the end of it? No recourse?

  • I think this makes more sense than the damn public registry thing the FAA wants - I think it makes sense that the drone should have some contact info on it even just for return to the owner in the event of a loss. Damage and injuries are pretty unlikely in most cases I think, I don't think insurance should be required but there should be some guidelines on penalties and things like that for the courts to follow in the event of disputes. I think this would be okay - mail off some registration card thats incl

  • This should work about as well as gun-free schools that have, like, TOTALLY prevented mass shootings.

    • To their credit, the folks bringing the guns haven't been there before, so they didn't get a chance to see the signs.
      All the kids and teachers know about the signs, so they don't bring their weapons with them.
      • To their credit, the folks bringing the guns haven't been there before, so they didn't get a chance to see the signs.

        The laws prohibiting firearms within, what is it, 1000 feet of schools have been in effect for how many years? And got flogged around the media outlets like there was no tomorrow as the solution to armed violence at schools when they were enacted, so the likelihood that they didn't know that just having a gun there was illegal. But if they've already decided that they're going to shoot someone, do you really think that the illegality of carrying the gun where they intend to carry out the shooting is going t

  • [Understandable, given]...that California is infamously-corrupt, that those in government want to curtail the public's ability to observe their actions, so that when questions from the public about government actions/policies/procedures/etc arise, what they tell us does not have to match what they do.

    Of course, very few of those in government have a problem with government using the same technology to enable them to observe anybody they wish as long as "Department 'A'" (FISA courts, etc) gives permission to

  • you should have the same duty to go to the scene of the accident

    Stupid idea from politician not engaging brain.

    In a car (in most places) you are required to not-leave the scene of the accident, and (most places) that requirement only applies when driving on a public highway (or equivalent concept). In most cases the crash site is on, or very nearly on, public property. This won't be the case with drones, at all. The crash site may be inaccessible, dangerous to access, illegal to access or just plain private property, and drone pilots already have been TTFO at gunpoin

    • by Sowelu ( 713889 )

      If you're flying some big 10 pound commercial octocopter and it falls from the sky over a crowd of kids, but you didn't see exactly where it landed--I'd say you have a moral obligation, and quite possibly a legal one, to go take responsibility for whatever happened instead of driving off before you get caught.

  • Will the insurance already provided to AMA members and FAA registration be sufficient or are they trying to grab more $$$?
    $2.5 Million Liability Umbrella
    $25,000 Medical Coverage
    $1,000 Fire and Theft Coverage
    • I consider my AMA insurance more than sufficient, and I indent to sue California if the insurance requirements become unreasonable.

      • I consider my AMA insurance more than sufficient, and I indent to sue California if the insurance requirements become unreasonable.

        Insurance is something that is generally used for statistically likely and expensive events. Given the epic number of drone deaths (0) and major injuries (0) to 3rd parties I think we should instead be mandating for insurance against terrorist attacks. It makes far more sense.

  • Are people getting injured from rogue drones? Has there even been an unusual amount of property damage?

    Why is the legislature trying to regulate something that is potentially a non-issue? What happened to the old days when legislatures wrote laws in response to case rulings and tried to solve demonstrable problems instead of imaginary problems?

    • They are being compared to cars so I can only conclude that drones have caused 220000 injuries last year and 3000 deaths in California alone. That's why it's being compared to cars right?

  • How about we pass a law that money must be lost in any of these regulations such that the state or county would have a negative incentive for enforcement. If we force people to purchase insurance it will be like car insurance and offer no real protection to the injured while generating money for the government and private companies as well. Try getting smacked by a car and see just how little a 10,000 dollar injury and loss of wages policies do for you. They are worthless. Ex
  • If I can snag your drone while it's over my property, I can keep it.

  • He said, "If cars have license plates and insurance, drones should have the equivalent, so they can be properly identified, and owners can be held financially responsible, whenever injuries, interference, or property damage occurs." Another bill, put forth by Assemblyman Ed Chau, wants to require drone owners to leave contact information in the event of a crash.

    This is a good example of why I hate our 24/7, 90-second segment, pandering for ratings, news cycle. RC aircraft have been around of a long time..

  • by crbowman ( 7970 ) on Friday January 15, 2016 @09:12PM (#51311715) Homepage

    Wouldn't the concept of federal supremacy and the fact that the FAA is already chartered with this responsibility by congress prohibit California from enforcing such regulations?

    • Yes. See http://www.americanbar.org/con... [americanbar.org], excerpted below.

      The U.S. Constitution provides that federal laws are the "supreme law of the land." In the context of aviation, the doctrine of field preemption—that state action is preempted because Congress intended to occupy the entire regulatory field—has been held by many courts to generally prohibit state regulation of aircraft safety and operations. Underlying this position is that the U.S. government by statute "has exclusive sovereignty of airspace of the United States." As the Supreme Court explained more than 40 years ago in an opinion invalidating a locally imposed curfew on aircraft noise, "a uniform and exclusive system of federal regulation" is required "if the congressional objectives underlying the Federal Aviation Act are to be fulfilled." Thus, in the context of aviation, federal preemption long has been understood to sweep with a wide broom.

  • A pair of legislators in California have introduced separate pieces of legislation aimed at grabbing more money from the state's citizens...

    FTFY

  • There shouldn't even be license plates on cars. Cars can be manufactured with permanent ID numbers right out of the factory. Getting a title reissue would tie a person to the ID. The whole state plates system is a big revenue scam. And now they want to do it to drones? This keeps up much more and I guarantee they will soon be requiring us to register every computer b/c "cyber-security".

  • If Amazon and Dominos and whoever else are going to be peppering the sky's of metro areas with autonomous delivery drones, I don't think it is unreasonable for those companies to be required to have some type of insurance policy to cover the inevitable but unexpected accidents, things caused by birds or weather or malfunction or LiON battery fires or who knows what else. I sure do not think my home insurance should take a hit because a bird flew into an Amazon drone over my house and it crashed through my s

    • I don't think it is unreasonable for those companies to be required to have some type of insurance policy to cover the inevitable but unexpected accidents

      Why? Companies are typically the entities which can afford to pay for such damages out of pocket without requiring insurance?

      The only thing dumber than mandating insurance for people with the money to cover it themselves, and the resources to know if they need it in the first place, is mandating insurance for something that so far has shown absolutely no signs of causing death, major injury or property damage. Terrorism has caused all of the above, maybe we should force mandatory terrorism insurance.

  • Oh give me a fucking break.

    This is just a fucking revenue scam. Nothing more.

    I think we're well past "blood from a stone" and now working on "blood from nothing".

    Greedy fucks...

  • Last I checked, my homeowners policy covers liability due to model aircraft. The personal liability part of the policy excludes aircraft, but the exclusion itself has an exclusion for model aircraft that do not carry passengers or cargo. So why should I pay an extra cent or dollar or whatever?

    Of course insurance on model aircraft is tiny because, despite all the noise, they aren't a big liability issue. While a few have been dropped on people (mostly by idiots), that's a very, very few. The larger camer

  • I can see why we need to treat drones/quadcopters the same way. Something needs to be done to stop the mass carnage that they are causing.

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