Proposed Kentucky Privacy Law Could Be Devastating for Commercial Drones

Jesse Cox Burgess, Public domain

News and Commentary.  Kentucky’s House Bill 45 is being touted as a privacy bill – and addresses a wide range of dystopian future scenarios, including microchipping people without their permission, disseminating deep fakes, and installing tracking devices on humans or property.  The sections on drone use, however, could have a negative impact on drone use in the state.

Overall, the section of House Bill 45 pertaining to drones aims to regulate the use of unmanned aircraft systems equipped with imaging devices to protect privacy rights, while providing specific exceptions for legitimate purposes.  Essentially, the Bill prohibits the use of drones for “surveillance” while permitting the use of drones for legitimate commercial concerns.  In summary, HB 45:

  • Prohibits the use of unmanned aircraft systems for surveillance without written consent on privately owned real property.
  • Presumes a reasonable expectation of privacy if the person is not observable from ground level in a place where others have a legal right to be.

Exceptions to Prohibitions:

  • Permits the use of unmanned aircraft systems in specific circumstances, such as countering a terrorist attack, with a search warrant, or to prevent imminent danger or damage to property.
  • Allows certain exceptions for licensed businesses, property appraisers, utility operations, environmental monitoring, aerial mapping, cargo delivery, and for the safe operation of unmanned aircraft systems.

Civil Action:

  • Allows the owner, tenant, occupant, invitee, or licensee of privately owned real property to initiate a civil action against any person or agency violating the regulations.

While nobody wishes to be subject to surveillance, the issue with singling out drones in legislation is that it proves extremely difficult to future proof laws that pertain directly to a certain type of technology.  This is because the technology and applications change quickly, while public perception tends to lag behind.  A drone application that is valuable tomorrow may not have been named directly in today’s legislation: a citizen unaware of commercial drone operations may feel threatened and take operators to court.  This complicates the business landscape for all drone operators in the space, and decreases the likelihood that forward thinking businesses will implement programs in Kentucky – even programs that could significantly benefit citizens.

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Miriam McNabbMiriam McNabb

Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has penned over 3,000 articles focused on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry.  Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For drone industry consulting or writing, Email Miriam.


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