Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), commonly referred to as drones, are an exciting technology that has captured the imagination of everyone from the occasional hobbyist to large corporations using UAS to streamline business operations. However, as UAS become more prevalent in everyday life, they often (literally) collide with a world not quite ready for their arrival. Whether it is a near impact with a commercial jetliner above Los Angeles International Airport, interfering with firefighting operations, or taking down power lines, UAS are currently all over the news. With so much attention, it is no wonder that California legislators have set their sights on regulating UAS. In 2015 and 2016, California legislators introduced over a half a dozen bills seeking to regulate flying UAS over everything from K–12 schools to wildfires to prisons. These bills have met with varying degrees of success.
In this article, we examine the current state of the law regulating UAS in California and the intersection between California and federal UAS law, and we analyze some recently proposed UAS legislation and how it may affect commercial UAS operators.