The government is chronically behind the times, but lawmakers in New Jersey are looking to make one important change in the coming weeks to address one very modern problem: drones. No, it’s not the privacy aspect or the use of drones in restricted areas. New Jersey is planning to make it illegal to fly a drone while drunk. Drunk droning could get you a fine or even jail time.
New Jersey is choosing an opportune moment to enact some restrictions. Sales of personal drone aircraft reportedly surpassed $1 billion in 2017, and it’s expected to continue increasing. Drones are becoming more capable and less expensive, encouraging more consumers to pick one up.
However, many drones are not intended to be used as toys. They can cause severe damage to people and property even when used in approved ways, and no one is making a drone controller with a built-in breathalyzer yet. Many drones now come with software that limits where they can operate and the altitude at which they can fly, but some users circumvent those limits. One state rep who fancies himself a drone enthusiast compared drones with “flying a blender.”
The state assembly is currently scheduled to vote on the bill next week. The proposed legislation makes it illegal to operate a drone aircraft while intoxicated, and also blocks flying the vehicles over a prison or in pursuit of wildlife. Most other states are considering placing new restrictions on drone aircraft in the coming legislative session, and several already have laws that make it illegal to fly over prisons. The drunk droning law would be a first in the nation.
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Anyone caught flying a drone under the influence would be issued a $1,000 fine and could spend up to 6 months in jail. Although, jail time seems unlikely. Drunk droning would fall under New Jersey’s “disorderly persons offense” category, so it’s not a felony.
The State Assembly seems poised to pass the bill early next week in the absence of significant opposition. At that point, it would be up to Governor Chris Christie to sign the bill before he leaves office later this month. If he fails to do so, the Assembly would be forced to reintroduce it in the next session. Lawmakers say they are worried that local ordinances on drone usage may vary, causing confusion for operators. The state-level law would make things clear, even if you do have to cancel that drone-powered kegger you had planned.
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