Drone restrictions law one of many taking affect Wednesday


By Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster

A law aimed at protecting Floridians from unwanted surveillance is one of more than 100 that take effect Wednesday.

While the law — dubbed the Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act — spells out that unmanned aerial drones can’t be used for surveillance, it does spell out when devices can be used.

“From my standpoint, I think it’s a good start,” said Stephen Myers, owner of Angel Eyes UAV in Naples. “It’s a good beginning.”

Drones can be used to assess property taxes, for aerial mapping, and to conduct environmental monitoring. The law also says that drones can be used by a person licensed by the state to perform “reasonable tasks within the scope” of the person’s job. Myers said that could mean insurance companies can use drones for roof inspections or to inspect large properties, like golf courses, for damage following a storm.

Rep. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, said he supported the law because it protected Floridians’ privacy, while still allowing some commercial uses.

“We’ve seen the technology for drones evolve rather rapidly and the technology has exceeded the statutory privacy protections,” said Rodrigues, who co-sponsored the measure in the House. “I saw a strong effort to ensure our right to privacy. It addressed the concerns I had.”

The drone law is one of dozens — including the state’s $78 billion spending plan and a nearly $400 million tax cut package — that went into effect Wednesday, the first day of the state’s fiscal year.

Among new laws are:

♦ The state’s decades old ban on gay adoption will be struck from the books. The law was ruled unconstitutional in 2010, but this year lawmakers included removing the language as part of a larger adoption bill. The law also offers incentives to community-based organizations that meet certain adoption goals and restarts a program to offer incentives to state workers who adopt.

♦ Some vaccines will be easier to get in Florida. The law allows patients to obtain several vaccines, including the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, at pharmacies, instead of at a doctor’s office. Under the law, pharmacists must apply to the Board of Pharmacy for immunization certification before they can administer the vaccines.

♦ Victims can secretly record sex crimes. The law applies to victims under 18, and was a direct response to a Lee County case where a man had his child sex abuse conviction and life sentence overturned last year. In the case, jurors heard secret recordings made by a 16-year-old girl, who said the tape showed him soliciting her for sex through veiled code words. The Supreme Court found there was no exception to the state law requiring all parties to consent to recordings and overturned that verdict.

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