Louisiana state senate passes pair of anti-drone photography bills

by Liam McCabe

posted Tuesday, April 29, 2014 at 12:50 PM EDT


If you’re a drone photographer in Louisiana, get your air-time in while you can: The state senate just passed two bills severely restricting drone photography, under penalty of fines and jail time, reports Motherboard. Both will need to pass the house and receive approval from the governor before they become law, but here’s what’s coming down the pipeline:

The DRONE Act is the broader of the two bills, making it illegal for citizens to use unmanned aircraft “with the intent to conduct surveillance” on a private property or person on that property. Dozens of exceptions are laid out in the bill, including provisions allowing law enforcement, energy industry, and farmers to use drones to do their jobs, and it’s still legal to capture images of public areas. An earlier version of the bill had been struck down, but was revived, and passed in its new form.

Senate Bill 356, the second in the pair, requires explicit permission to photograph all sorts of semi-public infrastructure, including highways, telecommunications networks, mass transit, and water treatment facilities.

Laws like these are unlikely to stand up to a challenge. What is considered surveillance? What if private property appears in the periphery of a photo shot above public space? Generally speaking, if you can see something from a public area, you’re allowed to photograph it. This principle is what enables street photography and the paparazzi to exist, as well as a good chunk of what photojournalists capture. Make an exception to this precedent for drones, and it becomes a slippery slope: What about telephoto lenses? Where do you draw the line for what constitutes a telephoto? What about more covert cameras, like smartphones or wearables?

Currently, there are still no solid federal guidelines for what constitutes acceptable drone use. The FAA is in the process of determining those guidelines this year. Once that happens, some of these issues should start to resolve themselves. In the meantime, aerial photographers should educate themselves on their rights, but stay on the conservative side with their flying.

(Via Motherboard)