Drunk droning: New Jersey aims to get tough on sloshed drone pilots

Flying a drone while drunk doesn’t sound like a good idea, and that’s because it’s not. Piloting a heavy object with rapidly spinning propellers needs to be done with due care and attention to reduce the chances of an accident or incident taking place, whether it involves an innocent member of the public, the pilot themselves, or even the U.S. president.

With the remotely controlled copters set to be a big hit with consumers this holiday season, there’s going to be thousands of new drone taking to the skies before the end of the year. In response, New Jersey lawmakers are moving ahead with a state law that would make it a criminal offense to fly a drone under the influence of drink or drugs, NorthJersey.com reported.

The bipartisan bill, which has cleared two legislative committees though still requires a final vote, could be signed into law by the end of January 2018 and comes as 38 other U.S. states consider a similar ban.

The law will mean that flying a drone drunk could land the pilot with a six-month prison sentence, a $1,000 fine, or both, depending on the specifics of the incident.

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One of the bill’s sponsors, Democratic Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, said in a statement that drones are becoming “increasingly disruptive, causing near-misses with airplanes, interfering with firefighter operations, and being used to smuggle drugs and other contraband into prisons.”

Quijano added, “This bill sets specific guidelines for how New Jersey’s residents are able to utilize these devices to establish some order and help prevent these dangerous situations.”

Interfering with firefighters or the security of prisons, considered a more serious offense than drunk droning, could result in an 18-month jail sentence or a $10,000 fine.

We don’t hear too many stories of inebriated drone pilots taking their bird for a spin, though you might recall a high-profile incident at the White House in 2015. According to reports, an off-duty and rather drunk government intelligence agency worker decided that 3 a.m. would be a good time to fly a Phantom 4 quadcopter from the balcony of a friend’s apartment. But unable to control the machine, it crashed right on the lawn of the White House, causing a security scare in the process.

This holiday season is set to see millions of new quadcopters taking to the skies, though hopefully the festive drinking, if there is any, will begin once the drone has landed safely back on terra firma.