New law means drinking and droning don’t mix in New Jersey

Posted at 7:34 AM, Jan 17, 2018

If you’ve had a few too many, don’t even think about grabbing those car keys. And if you live in New Jersey, put down those drone controls, too.

A bill banning people from operating unmanned aircraft devices while under the influence of alcohol or drugs was signed by Gov. Chris Christie on Monday, his last day in office, the Star-Ledgerreports.

The bill defines “under the influence” as a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08% or more — the same threshold set by many states’ drunk-driving laws. It also bans flying drones while under the influence of “a narcotic, hallucinogenic, or habit-producing drug.”

Penalties for violating the new law include up to six months in prison and a $1,000 fine. The law also bans operating drones in or near jails or prisons, using them in a way that interferes with first responders or using them for hunting wildlife.

Seventeen states passed drone-related legislation in 2017, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Rapid growth

Flying drones, often for aerial photography, is a booming hobby in the US.

Since December 2015, when the Federal Aviation Administration made it mandatory to register drones, more than 770,000 drone registrations have been filed in the US. The FAA predicts the number of small hobbyist drones in the United States will increase to about 3.55 million by 2021.

The numbers of commercial drone pilots have skyrocketed as well, with more than 59,000 of the US certificates required to pilot drones commercially being granted, the FAA says.

Many drone companies have moved their operations overseas amid complaints that US regulators are too slow in allowing the new technology.

Last year the White House launched a three-year pilot program to create “innovation zones” for test drones around the country. The move aims to spur the development of the drone industry in the United States.

In the pilot program, state and local governments will partner with drone companies to evaluate whether to allow operating at night, flying drones over people and flying outside a pilot’s line of sight. Package delivery is a possible drone service under consideration.

The US Department of Transportation will field applications for the program and grant at least five partnerships.