What are the legalities of flying drones over emergency scenes?

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1:20 – Today’s question discusses the legalities of driving drones over emergency scenes
2:09 – Is “ambulance chasing” or “case running” illegal in all US states?
2:23 – What are some of the phrases used to refer to drone pilots flying over emergency scenes?
2:42 – When are case runners or bottom feeders likely to show up?
3:45 – Can data gathered by drones from emergency scenes be of any value?
4:38 – Is there an appropriate channel through which you can legally fly your drone over emergency scenes?
5:18 – Paul lists the states where it is illegal to a drone over emergency scenes
5:36 – What does California state law say about flying your drone over emergency scenes?
7:12 – Defining the term “ambulance chaser”
9:17 – Is it advisable to contact a lawyer to ascertain the legality of flying drones over emergency scenes?
10:34 – Paul reads out professional ethics for attorneys laid out by the American Bar Association. Are these ethics standards applicable to drone pilots as well?
14:10 – Can you be arrested or your FAA license be revoked if you are involved in ambulance chasing?

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Dan Pfeiffer says:

The questions had nothing to do with ambulance chasing.  The question asked about flying over emergency scenes.  Most states have laws covering interference at an emergency scene.  The question is more to is flying over an emergency scene interfering with the incident.

Bobby Coggins says:

When I fly near an emergency scene, I do not fly over people, but from a distance so that the associated traffic flow, or traffic flow area, can be seen. My purpose is to post a photo or video so people know what area to avoid. I'm usually 200-500 feet away and 200 to 400 high. Unless personnel are looking for my drone, they don't see it and I'm not flying close enough for individual people to be recognized. I purposely keep my footage less revealing of scenes than a typical News Chopper. If you make it illegal for drones, then it must also be illegal for News Choppers to do it. I occasionally use the footage on my citizen journalist news outlet. Most of the time, I don't bother using the drone as people who drive by scenes send me photos that I can use to give people an idea of the location(s) to avoid.

meehhhe Of You says:

I cannot wait for this to get tried in federal court. Since this is in direct violation of our freedoms… If I can use my iPhone camera, I can use my drone.

Matt Hinkle says:

This is a pretty interesting topic but it goes in many different directions. I am also a firefighter and this is just my opinion but the majority of the operations you are discussing do not fall under "ambulance chasing". These operators are trying to shoot the same videos everyone else shoots with their phone but from the air. They aren't intentionally trying to collect evidence or data, they are just trying to film a news worthy video. Everyone that sees a large working fire takes a picture and posts it to social media. However, as a firefighter a UAS raises a lot more concerns as to the safety of the scene. I can promise you emergency workers will immediately consider it a threat before they consider it innocent film making/photography. Many of us have thousands of hours of training some of which specifically discussing IEDs, secondary devices, etc. we will immediately be concerned until we can deem it "safe". Unfortunately this is distracting to emergency workers. A drone is the last thing I want to be concerned with when working a fire, wreck, etc. I do completely agree with the building relationships discussion. If we are aware of your operations and have an understanding of what you should and should not do it will be much less alarming for emergency crews. We as first responders have to understand that many drones will be used by non-licensed civilians just like they are using a cell phone right now. Whether you think it's legal or not they will fly and they will photograph or film us. It has been going on for years just not from above.

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