The California Assembly approved a bill on Monday that would create a ‘no-fly zone’ for hobby drones hovering above private property.
The unmanned vehicles would be required to stay 350-feet above private property, unless granted permission by the property owner to fly closer.
California lawmakers have wrestled with how to balance the benefits of drones with their threat to privacy. The devices are now small, cheap and easy to equip with a camera and microphone, offering journalists, police, surveyors, shipping companies and a vast array of others with unprecedented business opportunities.
Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a bill that makes it illegal to invade a person’s privacy and take pictures with a drone.
It did not set a height restriction.
Several Assembly Republicans on Monday called the heigh-limit bill, SB 142, too restrictive and damaging to the budding drone industry. They said it would force the devices to fly in a too-narrow corridor above 350-feet but below the FAA's 400-foot limit on hobby drones.
"Don't regulate an industry out of business," Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, said before Monday's vote.
Assembly members OK'd the bill 43-to-11, on a party-line vote.
The legislation now heads back to the state Senate for a concurrence vote before potentially heading to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk for consideration.