The drones are coming! The drones are coming!
Yes, drones or more appropriately unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) are coming to a school near you. Prices have dropped, they are easy to fly, have cameras and impress people easily. Drones or UAS are here to stay. For the most part, drones can be a great educational tool and bring immense value to M&O departments (we talk about in our post), athletic programs and the like. Unfortunately, there is a dark side to UAS.
UAS operators have a tendency to fall victim to the dark side of drone capabilities, which ultimately infringe upon people’s right to privacy and the like. The FAA has several regulations in place that govern National Air Space to protect privacy rights, but UAS operators somehow feel that these regulations do not apply to them. (Learn more about flying UAS) So, the California legislature has taken matters into their own hands by creating Senate Bill 271 of 2015, (Vetoed – did not pass 10-27-15)which addresses drone or UAS use over school property. The bill still allows for their use when the Principal authorizes it so it should not impact school operations where the school utilizes a drone.
Whether the Governor signs this bill or not, Districts should develop and implement a drone or UAS policy to govern the use of UAS at their school sites. We have developed a model program for school districts which addresses all of the relevant issues that schools in California may encounter. If you are interested in the policy, just leave us a comment below.
Section 626.12 is added to the Penal Code, to read:
(a) Unless authorized by federal law, it shall be an infraction to knowingly and intentionally operate an unmanned aircraft or unmanned aircraft system on the grounds of, or less than 350 feet above ground level within the airspace overlaying, a public school providing instruction in kindergarten or grades 1 to 12, inclusive, during school hours and without the written permission of the school principal or higher authority, or his or her designee, or equivalent school authority.(b) Unless authorized by federal law, it shall be an infraction to knowingly and intentionally use an unmanned aircraft or unmanned aircraft system to capture images of public school grounds providing instruction in kindergarten or grades 1 to 12, inclusive, during school hours and without the written permission of the school principal or higher authority, or his or her designee, or equivalent school authority.(c) A violation of this section shall be punished as follows:(1) Upon a first conviction, a warning shall be given.(2) Upon a second and any subsequent conviction under this section, a fine of no more than two hundred dollars ($200).(d) For the purposes of this section, the following definitions apply:(1) “School hours” means during any school session, extracurricular activity, or event sponsored by or participated in by the school, and the one-hour periods immediately preceding and following any session, activity, or event.(2) “Unmanned aircraft” means an aircraft that is operated without the possibility of direct human intervention from within or on the aircraft.(3) “Unmanned aircraft system” means an unmanned aircraft and associated elements, including, but not limited to, communication links and the components that control the unmanned aircraft that are required for the pilot in command to operate safely and efficiently in the national airspace system.(e) This section does not apply to a publisher, editor, reporter, or other person connected with or employed by a newspaper, magazine, or other periodical publication engaged in gathering, receiving, or processing information for communication to the public, or by a radio or television station or network, or by a press association or wire service, or Internet Web site affiliated with or under common ownership of any of those entities, or any person who was so connected or employed at the time that person operated the unmanned aircraft or unmanned aircraft system, unless a request that the person cease using an unmanned aircraft or unmanned aircraft system at a public school building or public school grounds is made by the principal, or the designee of the principal, on the basis that the continued presence of the unmanned aircraft or unmanned aircraft system used by the person would be disruptive of, or would interfere with, classes or other activities of the public school program.(f) This section does not apply to the operation of an unmanned aircraft or unmanned aircraft system by law enforcement.(g) This section does not apply to any entity for which the Federal Aviation Administration has authorized the use of the unmanned aircraft or unmanned aircraft system if the unmanned aircraft or unmanned aircraft system is operated in accordance with the terms and conditions of the authorization.
No reimbursement is required by this act pursuant to Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution because the only costs that may be incurred by a local agency or school district will be incurred because this act creates a new crime or infraction, eliminates a crime or infraction, or changes the penalty for a crime or infraction, within the meaning of Section 17556 of the Government Code, or changes the definition of a crime within the meaning of Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution.