St. Louis Enacts Law Regulating Commercial Surveillance Drones

On Tuesday, St. Louis Mayor signed into law a bill aimed at regulating the use of commercial surveillance drones in the city. The legislation, proposed by Alderwoman Alisha Sonnier of Tower Grove East, comes in response to concerns raised earlier this year when an out-of-state firm announced plans for anti-crime drone patrols over a south city neighborhood, which were later canceled, reports St. Louis Today.

Initial Draft Raises Concerns

The initial draft of the bill made it illegal for anyone to use a drone to observe any other person or their private property without written consent. This provision raised concerns among press freedom and First Amendment experts, who pointed out the longstanding precedent supporting people's right to photograph or film others in public, in plain view. They warned that the city could be inviting lawsuits with such broad restrictions.

Final Bill Focuses on Commercial Surveillance

The final version of the bill focuses more specifically on companies selling surveillance services. These firms will be required to obtain city business licenses and avoid flying within 25 feet of another person without their permission. They must also steer clear of government facilities, law enforcement activity, and emergency medical response.

Exemptions for Press and Hobbyists

The law includes exemptions for members of the press doing their jobs and hobbyists taking footage for recreational or educational purposes. This ensures that the bill does not infringe upon the rights of journalists or individuals engaging in non-commercial drone use.

The new law in St. Louis seeks to strike a balance between addressing concerns over the use of commercial surveillance drones and protecting the rights of the press and individual hobbyists. By focusing on regulating companies selling surveillance services, the city aims to prevent potential abuse while still allowing for legitimate drone use in public spaces.

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Haye Kesteloo
Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Founder of DroneXL.co, where he covers all drone-related news, DJI rumors and writes drone reviews, and EVXL.co, for all news related to electric vehicles. He is also a co-host of the PiXL Drone Show on YouTube and other podcast platforms. Haye can be reached at haye @ dronexl.co or @hayekesteloo.

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