New Florida Drone Restrictions May Hinder Press Photography

May 18, 2015

Last week, Governor Rick Scott approved new restrictions for drones, but the question of how drones clash with the first amendment hovers over the heads of Floridians.

Credit Michael MK Khor, via Flickr

The issue of who can record what using drones has gotten more restrictive since Governor Rick Scott signed drone legislation into law, and some fear it might have ripple effects on journalists. Michelle Richardson of the Florida ACLU, says the definition of what constitutes “private property” has gotten muddy.

“The line has always been, ‘what is in public view?’ and, when you’re standing on the ground, that’s usually pretty clear, right? It’s what’s in your line of sight,” Richardson says, “and there isn’t a lot of case law about what happens when you go up in the air, and you’re now looking down at people’s property.”

As Richardson explains, journalists already use helicopters and drones to catch an aerial perspective, and the new restrictions add unnecessary red tape. The law prohibits all drone-based recording or photography of private property. While there were no criminal penalties attached to the law, the threat of lawsuits still looms over drone operators.