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Google, Amazon Help Defeat California Drone Legislation Limiting Flights

BY Alan Perlman
17 September 2015

Source: Silicon Valley Business Journal
By: Gina Hall

Google and Amazon have helped to halt a California bill that might have grounded their ambitious drone programs.

California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed the latest drone bill on Wednesday evening. The legislation, which passed both California houses in August, would have banned unmanned aircraft from flying 350 above property without the property owner’s consent.


Google has helped to bring down legislation that would have curbed drone use in California. Here, Google tested a drone in Australia for initial delivery flights using the aerial vehicle.

“Drone technology certainly raises novel issues that merit careful examination,” Brown wrote, following the veto. “This bill, however, while well-intentioned, could expose the occasional hobbyist and the FAA-approved commercial user alike to burdensome litigation and new causes of action.”

The legislation was designed to alleviate privacy concerns and provide protections against peeping Toms. The bill’s author, state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), said drones “should not be able to invade the privacy of our backyards and our private property without our permission.”

So who is applauding Wednesday’s decision?

Google and Amazon

Tech companies including Google, Amazon and GoPro lobbied hard against the bill due to major investments in drone technology. Both Google and Amazon are developing drone delivery systems to fly packages to consumers. GoPro is also developing its own consumer drone.

Google recently said that Titan, the drone company Google acquired in April of 2014, would be conducting its first test flight in late 2015, according to The Verge. One of Google’s other primary interests in drone technology is the ability to provide Internet connectivity to people who don’t currently have access.

In addition to battling legislation banning drone flights, Google is joining Amazon and other companies in creating an air-traffic control system to prevent drone collisions, Bloomberg reported .

“We think the airspace side of this picture is really not a place where any one entity or any one organization can think of taking charge,”
“The idea being that it’s not ‘Google is going to go out and build a solution and everyone else has to subscribe to it.’ The idea really is anyone should be free to build a solution.”

– Dave Vos , head of Google’s Project Wing, told Bloomberg News in July.

The Consumer Electronics Association

The trade group opposed the bill, estimating that the state will accrue $14 million in economic gains if drones are allowed to fly. The gains would require favorable federal drone legislation, which is expected in late 2015 or early 2016.

“Drones hold the power to create new businesses, improve our lives and transform the way we do business,” Gary Shapiro, CEA president and CEO, and Brian Wynne, president and CEO at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, said in a recent press release. “The safe integration of [unmanned aircraft systems] into our transportation system will displace noisy trucks, reduce urban traffic and cut our fuel consumption and carbon emissions. Drones also will allow for game-changing innovations such as the faster delivery of life-saving diagnostics and medicine, improved crop production and efficiency, and safer work environments for those performing building and bridge maintenance.”


California’s legislation was also opposed by the National Press Photographers Association.

The organization noted that “journalists could be sued if a UAS [unmanned aircraft system] they operate were to stray into the ‘airspace overlaying the real property’ of owners while actually gathering newsworthy information of a different nearby location.”

Drones recently made headlines due to sightings near passenger planes and aircraft fighting wildfires in Southern California . According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 46 different states have considered 156 different bills about drones in 2015.

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