Surprisingly, many states do not have bans on operating drones while under the influence, but New Jersey is one of a few states that has passed legislation prohibiting drunk drone-flying. Legislation was passed this month, and now those caught piloting drones while drunk or high will have to pay $1000 in fines or face 6 months in prison.
This new bill will become law, but when it will be implemented still remains to be seen. There doesn’t seem to be much opposition, though Governor Chris Christie may not be pleased with the bill, since he’s vetoed drone legislation before. It is worth noting, though, that prior legislation involved regulating drone use by law enforcement, so hopefully this new bill will meet less opposition since it focuses on civilian use.
The legislation doesn’t specify the size of drones that would be considered illegally piloted if flown by inebriated people in New Jersey. The blood alcohol concentration level specified as being too drunk to operate a drone is 0.08, which is the standard used across the board.
Annette Quijano, a Democratic sponsor assemblywoman, said that drones are becoming more prominent in everyday life, and are “increasingly disruptive.” In her statement, she said that preventing drunk or high individuals from piloting drones can prevent “dangerous situations.” Drone pilots have told reporters that they are worried that regulations may interfere with their hobby too much, but the majority do understand that drones are dangerous if flown improperly and people need to be sober when flying.
The bill also proposes punishments for those who use drones to harm property and other people. It also outlines punishments for those who use drones to interfere with prison and jail operations, or with emergency personnel trying to do their jobs.
Even though there hasn’t been a surge in drone accidents, every year there is an increase in drone use and this results in an increased risk of something going wrong. We have seen inebriated drone pilots threaten security in the past, notably in 2015, when an employee of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency flew a DJI drone past White House security without alerting the Secret Service until much later.