Flying a Drone While Drunk Could Soon Become Illegal in New Jersey

The U.S. state of New Jersey has proposed a bill making it an offense to be drunk and operate a drone. The bill has passed the Senate and will be reviewed by the Assembly Committee shortly.
Jessica Miley

Drinking while driving is not only a terrible idea, it is illegal in most parts of the world. In fact being drunk and doing most things is illegal in many parts of the world. And for good reason; being drunk makes you a poor decision maker and infinitely lessens your fine motor skills. The American state of New Jersey knows this all too well, so on Thursday, it started the process to pass legislation that would make it illegal to operate a drone while drunk.

New Jersey is just the first of at least 38 states who are considering making stricter drone regulations. The move would put their laws beyond the Federal Aviation Administration's regulations. The bill in New Jersey now makes it an offense for a person under the influence of alcohol to operate a drone. If caught doing so, an offender could face up to six months in jail, a $1,000 fine or both, if found guilty. In addition to the drunk and disorderly operating ban, the bill sought to make hunting wildlife or endanger people or property a similar offense. The lawmakers were quick to point out the introduction of the bill was an attempt to stay ahead of the growing industry of drones, especially on a recreational basis and was not a response to a particular incident in the state. The bill was approved by the Democrat-led Senate 39-0. The drone bill will go before the New Jersey Assembly committee for approval soon. 

Other U.S. states to follow with stricter drone laws

Other states are following suit. North Carolina just passed drone laws in November that took effect as of December 1, 2017. Bill 128 prohibits drone use in prisons, jails, and any other correction or containment facility. The ‘near’ wording of the bill is defined as a horizontal distance of 500 feet or a vertical distance of 250 feet. The other drone bill that passed, Bill 337, was a revision of existing drone laws. The revision now makes it explicit that the state's drone laws also apply to hobby models. While hobby drone models must abide by the state's laws regarding drone flying behaviors, they are still exempt from the state's laws regarding the need for permits which apply only to commercial drones. 

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Drone enthusiasts from both the public and private sector have had a rocky relationship with the U.S. federal administration over the last 12 months. Republican leader, Donald Trump has made several conflicting statements on the subject. On one side, the White House has made it clear they do want to work with drone operators to create laws that both keep the public safe and set strict guidelines for drone use, but on the other hand Trump has proposed legislation that would give government agencies the power to track and destroy any drone they classified as a threat. The details of what would constitute a threat was vague. These types of statements and the complicated overlapping of federal and state regulations led to many companies like Google and Amazon move their drone delivery testing systems to countries like Australia and the UK, where drone laws are more relaxed.

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