Lawyer: Drones ‘completely legal,’ laws non-existent

Peter Sachs of Branford is out in front of what could very well be a drone revolution in America.

Sachs is a lawyer and drone enthusiast. In fact, just last week, his drone helped out Branford firefighters try and figure out if it was safe to approach a quarry fire that was burning right near some explosives.

Sachs points to a  recent case in Hartford, where a man was questioned by police after flying a drone over a crime scene.

He says that not only did the drone operator in that case not do anything illegal, he says that right now there are no state or federal laws on the books on drone use.

“On a civiliian level, you can do anything you want with them. They are completely legal. And if the FAA says anything differently, I challenge them to prove it,” Sachs said.

Congress has asked the FAA to come up with a list of commercial drone rules by the end of next year. In the meantime, they offered a list of suggested guidelines for drone use.

Those guidelines include a 400 foot altitude limit, not flying over populated areas, and no impeding air traffic. Privacy laws also apply, and drones can not be used commercially.

At the moment though, those aren’t laws. They are just guidelines. And Sachs says they are legally meaningless.

Right now, about nine states have laws governing what drones can do below 400 feet. Connecticut is not one of them. So, you can do almost anything you want with a drone.

“It’s the wild west as it stands right now,” Sachs said. “There are absolutely no laws or regulations whatsoever on a federal level. So you can do whatever you want to do. You don’t have to pay attention to the FAA at all.”

State representative James Albis of East Haven is trying to change that. He’s about to introduce Connecticut’s first drone bill.

“I think the number one concern is privacy. Drones make it a lot easier to be able to stalk someone, engage in vouyerism activity, so in the legislation that we are talking about this year, we plan to include enhanced penalties for those types of crimes,” Albis said.

While the government tries to figure out what to do with this exploding, powerful technology, one thing seems clear.

One way or another, the drones are coming.

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