Paparazzi Drones: Arrest Will Lead To New Legislation Against Unmanned, Flying Cameras

Authorities in Los Angeles have arrested a man for flying an unmanned aircraft — or drone — over a beach in San Pedro, California. The arrest could have major implications for anyone seeking to use a drone to take pictures in Hollywood.

Tom Zebra flew his drone over the Hollywood Division of the Los Angeles Police Department on July 28, shooting pictures from the drone of inmates and undercover officers. The parking lot where the pictures were taken is shielded by a high wall so that it is not visible from the street.

After the event, police detectives and lawyers from the L.A. County District Attorney’s office held a meeting to determine what laws — if any — were broken by the man flying the drone, according to TMZ. What they realized? Under the current law, as long as the drone remained above 400 feet in the air, there was nothing they could do about it. Anything flying above 400 feet is in the FAA’s jurisdiction.

Fast forward to the present. Tom Zebra, the same man who flew his drone over the police division, was flying his remote-controlled drone over the harbor in San Pedro, California, when police confronted him. As it is illegal to fly a remote-controlled aircraft over a public beach, the authorities were well within their rights when they requested that Mr. Zebra land his drone. When he did, the police confiscated it. They cited Tom Zebra, and he was released.

The arrest helped authorities to realize that the law governing unmanned craft from flying over public beaches could also restrict drones from flying over coastal homes owned by Hollywood stars. There are also ordinances in place that prohibit unmanned craft from flying over publicly owned buildings including adjacent parking lots, pools, piers, golf facilities, and the like. The law also prohibits unmanned craft from horse paths and hiking trails.

The realization that drones fall under this umbrella of unmanned craft — which was originally legislated with the idea of remote control hobby planes and helicopters in mind — fully includes drones, gave the authorities a sigh of relief. There is now some sense that certain restrictions are in place for any paparazzi that have a mind to use drones in order to take pictures of celebrities in private residences — ie. over high guard walls or in the center of immense estates not visible from public property.

For celebrities — or anyone else for that matter — who don’t live near the coast, or that don’t own property that falls under the current no-drone ordinance, legislation is currently being proposed in California, according to the Daily News, that would dissuade the paparazzi from using drones in the future.

[Image via Digital Trends]