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Wed, Mar 08, 2017

Oklahoma Bill Would Protect Property Owners Who Destroy Drones

To Be Debated Soon In The State Senate

A bill just sent to the full Oklahoma Senate for consideration would protect property owners from civil liability if they destroy a drone that is over their property without permission.

According to the text of Senate Bill 660, "Any person owning or controlling real estate or other premises who voluntarily damages or destroys a drone located on the real estate or premises or within the airspace of the real estate or premises not otherwise regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration or where a reasonable expectation of privacy exists, shall, together with any successors in interest, if any, not be civilly liable for causing the damage or destruction to the property of such person."

The newspaper Tulsa World reports that the bill's sponsor, Sen. Ralph Shortey (R-Oklahoma City), sees the issue as a "huge problem." He cited as an example an incident in 2015 where a drone operated by an animal rights group was flying over a private fundraising event for U.S. Senator James Inhofe (R-OK). The event was a pigeon shoot, and one of the participants shot down the drone.

What the bill does not do, according to Shortey, is protect shooters from such criminal charges as discharging a firearm where it is prohibited except in self-defense. It also does not specify how a drone may be disabled and brought down. “It doesn’t matter how you damage that thing,” Shortey told Tulsa World. “As a private citizen, you have a reasonable expectation of privacy above your property where the public does not have access and that is under 400 feet.”

Stephen McKeever, the Oklahoma Secretary of Science and Technology and chair of the governor's Unmanned Aerial Systems Council, disagrees with Sen. Shortey's premise. He said that a drone is classified as an aircraft by the FAA, and federal law prohibits shooting at or otherwise interfering with an aircraft. "So, the bill opens itself up to the state preemption of federal law,” he said.

Shortey hopes for a debate on the bill by the full Oklahoma Senate this week or next. If passed, it would go into effect November 1, 2017

(Image from file)

FMI: Bill Text

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