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Drones are awesome. But along with the awesomeness comes great responsibility. Like many other awesome things, drones are incredibly dangerous, and improper use can actually result in not just injuries, but also severe legal consequences, including jail time.
Recently, a Seattle man was sentenced to 30 days in jail as a result of injuring two individuals with his drone. While flying his drone in public, he lost control, crashed into a building, and the drone fell to the ground, striking two people. The man was charged and convicted of reckless endangerment. Reports state that an appeal is planned, particularly as this was the first prosecution of its kind in the state. However, as law enforcement and the law catch up to the widespread popularity of drones, more such prosecutions are expected.
Drone Pilots Beware
Not only can drones be incredibly useful tools for a wide array of industries, but they are just a blast to fly around. However, drone pilots need to be weary of local, state, and federal laws regulating drone operations.
While most violations of drone laws will only lead to civil penalties and fines, (rather than jail time), the consequences are likely to be more than just financial. In some cases, causing an injury with drone could lead to both criminal and civil charges. In the above case, the drone pilot could be held financially responsible for the injuries caused by his drone in a civil lawsuit brought by the victims.
Currently, under federal law, drone pilots, even after being licensed, or certified, cannot fly out of their line of sight, nor can they fly over people. Both of these rules are tailored to protect the public from out of control drones falling from the sky. Additionally, federal and state laws prohibit drones from flying near airports or larger, manned, aircrafts. Although numerous reports of drones crashing into planes, helicopters and buildings have been filed every year since drones became commercially available, authorities frequently struggle to find out who was the pilot.