The NCSL Blog


By Amanda Essex

From "Bones" to "Parks and Recreation," "The Good Wife" to "Orange is the New Black," drones have been widely featured in pop culture recently.

Drone on Parks and Rec - photo credit NBCOn "Bones," a drone was used to search for evidence in the Anacostia River. What wasn’t mentioned, however, was the fact that Washington, D.C. is a No Drone Zone and that some of the drone operations (also known as an unmanned aircraft system or UAS) in the show would have likely violated federal rules.

On "Orange is the New Black," a drone was flown over the grounds of the prison. At least five states have laws that explicitly prohibit operating a drone within a certain distance of a jail or prison.

Did you know that California has a new law, passed in 2015, intended to address the use of UAS paparazzi? The law makes a person liable for physical invasion of privacy if they knowingly enter the airspace above the land of another person without permission in order to take pictures or videos.

NCSL has a new report, released this week, that examines state and federal policies on UAS, including those mentioned above. “Taking Off: State Unmanned Aircraft Systems Policies” provides an in-depth look at the laws that have been passed around the country to address the use of drones by everyone from state governments to companies to the casual operator flying a drone at a local park.

Amanda Essex is a policy associate in NCSL’s Transportation Program and a pop culture enthusiast.

Contact Amanda.

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About the NCSL Blog

This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.