At events like Bay Area Maker Faire, hobbyists pit their customized personal drones against each other in aerial battle. But two bills before the California legislature could bring these fun and educational activities to a halt. Tell California lawmakers not to criminalize drone combat sports.
A.B. 1820 creates a blanket prohibition on arming drones with weapons or devices that can cause damage to property. Meanwhile, S.B. 868 criminalizes arming a drone or operating a weaponized drone with up to 6 months in jail and up to $1,000 in fines.
Neither of these bills takes into account recreational events like the Aerial Sports League’s competitions (formerly “Game of Drones”), in which pilots operate their drones in netted arenas and try to knock each other’s drones out of the air using rudimentary offensive capabilities. If passed, these bills could criminalize the use of net guns, melee weapons, and even drones that dangle bits of wire or ribbon to foul an opponent’s propellers. After all, the object of these games is to damage your opponent’s property (i.e., disable their battle drone)—and all of these devices could be considered weapons under the law.
With these prohibitions, lawmakers would also strike a blow against education, since for many young participants building combat drones is their first exposure to science and engineering. Drone combat is a part of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education programs developed by groups such as the Aerial Sports League and The Drobots Company to encourage youth interest in robotics.
The bills once again illustrate how lawmakers are often too eager to regulate technology before fully considering the ramifications for the people who actually build and use it.
Take action now to defend drone dogfights.