Updated: Jan 21, 2019
Author: Sophie Gilbert
Photo courtesy of PCMag.com
NEWS- In 1910, the first state law banning drunk driving was implemented in the United States. Since then, it has practically become second nature to ensure that drivers are always sober behind the wheel. Now, the skies are going to be watched as closely as the roads; a New Jersey law has been signed into effect banning “drunk droning.”
The unanimously approved bill, which took effect on January 15, 2018, was one of 109 that Governor Chris Christie passed on his last day in office. It states that operating a drone while under the influence of alcohol is illegal. “Under the influence” is classified as a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.08 percent, the same level that constitutes drunk driving. The legislation mainly focuses on personally-owned drones, since individuals are more likely to commit droning misdemeanors, but it applies to corporations using drones as well.
Breaking this new “drunk droning” law results in a $1000 fine or up to six months in prison. Besides inebriation, the law also bans additional types of drone use, such as flying a drone near a prison, in pursuit of wildlife or in interference with first responders.
The new law has come about as a result of booming consumer drone sales over the past few years. According to the Consumer Technology Association, 3.1 million drones have been sold in the past year, a 28 percent increase from the year before.
Personal drones can serve a variety of purposes. People frequently use them for aerial photography, video or simply the fun factor of recreational use. Besides the booming industrial growth of personal drones, companies have begun incorporating drones to streamline various processes as well. For example, delivery companies like UPS and Amazon are testing the use of drones to deliver packages quickly to people’s homes. BT Group, a telecommunication company, is experimenting with using drones to provide internet access in hard-to-reach areas like war zones and natural disaster locations. The Japanese sushi chain Yo!Sushi also experimented with a drone waiter prototype that delivered food through wirelessly-controlled commands from a smartphone in the kitchen.
The surge in popularity has led to numerous drone-related accidents. One of the most notorious was in 2015, when an intoxicated National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency employee crashed a drone into the White House grounds. These remote-controlled aircrafts have also been known to disrupt bystanders at events, obstruct other aircrafts and interfere with wildlife.
Since these incidents, 17 states have passed drone regulations in the past year, and many other states are looking towards implementing them in the future, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
At one New Jersey school, a physics teacher, who is also a faculty advisor of the Robotics Club, has had much experience with drones himself. “[Drones] can cause huge problems if they are operated in a bad way … Many people are involved in building drones and flying them … we have a drone group in our robotics club. But drones can cause problems: they can interfere with airplanes, they can injure people. They do have to be regulated.”
As companies continue to adopt drones into their practices, drones are becoming increasingly common, but more and more safely regulated. The beginning of sweeping drone regulations points to a future in which drones become as ordinary as any other vehicle.