The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee voted 6-1 to support an amended proposal (SB 642) by Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, that would expand who could be sued when a drone causes damages.
Diaz de la Portilla said similar legislation is already in place regarding commercial drones.
Diaz de la Portilla explained that the rules would be the same as if one were lending a car or golf cart.
The proposal would now classify all drones weighing between 0.55 pounds and 55 pounds as a “dangerous instrumentality,” similar to a car or boat.
The initial proposal sought to use joint and several liability, which means the owner of a drone could be 100 percent liable for damages and harm caused by a ‘toy.’ In the latest proposal, a drone owner could still be held liable, but it would be up to a court to determine the degree of liability.
According to the News Service of Florida, “the political arm for the commercial unmanned aerial-systems industry believes that even with the rewrite, the proposal would encourage unnecessary and expensive lawsuits and may prevent the industry from reaching its potential.”
“We believe that this will send a message that while other states are embracing this technology, Florida is not,” said David Daniel, representing the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Association of Florida. “This legislation won’t stop a bird from hitting an airplane and it won’t stop a drone from hitting an airplane. You cannot regulate the choices of others, particularly those in the recreational field.”
Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, who cast the one vote against the proposed change said he needed more time to understand the impact of the amended proposal.
“I don’t believe the Legislature should ever try to put itself in a position to stopping technology,” Richter said. “Drones are here. They’re going to be here. We can’t stop technology. We need to properly regulate technology.”
If the proposal gets through the Rules Committee it will go before the entire chamber.