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L.A. City Council backs state legislation regulating civilian drone use

L.A. City Council backs state legislation regulating civilian drone use
A quadcopter drone equipped with a camera. The L.A. City Council has backed Sacramento legislation that would regulate their use by civilians over wildfires and private property. (Handout / TNS)

The Los Angeles City Council on Friday unanimously endorsed proposed state legislation that would regulate civilians' use of drones, which have come under fire on such grounds as invasion of privacy and interfering with emergency responders.

The council voted 14-0 to endorse a group of state Senate bills that would criminalize launching and piloting a drone that interferes with any firefighting effort, as was the case during a recent wildfire in the San Bernardino National Forest, and to protect officials from liability if they damage or destroy the remote-controlled aircraft.

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City officials also backed a proposal that would consider the operation of a drone up to 350 feet above private property trespassing. Some experts have warned that paparazzi will be more tempted to use drones to encroach on a celebrity's property, among other uses.

The council also agreed to back Sen. Dianne Feinstein's Consumer Drone Safety Act, which would require that consumer drones be equipped with safety features, such as a transponder so it can be tracked by air traffic controllers and a backup system to keep it from crash landing.

Friday's approval came a day after the LAPD detained a man for flying a drone over a cordoned off area in East Hollywood where officers were looking for a person being sought on an arrest warrant. The drone flew near a police helicopter that was assisting and forced the aircraft to move to avoid it, police said.

Authorities are seeking charges against the man for interfering with police operations.

But the complaints about drones don't just come from law enforcement. Two months ago, aircraft fighting wildfires in the San Bernardino National Forest abandoned water and fire-retardant drops because of drones in their flight paths. The operators were never found.

For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna.

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