California Gov. Jerry Brown has vetoed a state bill drone businesses and advocates had criticized as a potential death sentence for the nascent drone industry in the home state of Silicon Valley.

California Senate Bill 142 would have prohibited flight within airspace up to 350 feet above private property unless the property owners in question gave “express permission” for the vehicle to hover over the area. The bill had passed in both houses of the state legislature, according to Re/code.

“Drone technology certainly raises novel issues that merit careful examination,” Brown wrote in his veto. “This bill, however, while well-intentioned, could expose the occasional hobbyist and the FAA-approved commercial user alike to burdensome litigation and new causes of action.” 

The governor’s reasoning that the bill was too far-reaching echoed his previous explanation for vetoing another bill that would have hampered drone use. A year ago, Brown shot down a bill that would have required law enforcement agencies to acquire warrants for use of drones in situations other than emergencies like fires or hostage situations.

"There are undoubtedly circumstances where a warrant is appropriate. The bill's exceptions, however, appear to be too narrow," Reuters reported Brown as saying in his veto message. 

The Small UAV Coalition, which advocates on behalf of drone giants such as Amazon and Google as well as startups including DroneDeploy and Flirtey, said last month it planned to urge Brown to veto SB 142 if it made it to the governor’s desk.

Coalition executive director Michael Drobac at the time told Inc. that the bill would put the breaks on the drone industry in California. He suggested some drone companies would leave the state in response.

Matthew Sweeny, CEO of Australian drone startup Flirtey, said California could have the makings of a global leader in drone innovation and that he wanted to see the state move towards more liberal regulations.

With one bill in one state down, drone advocates still have a ways to go if they want to see a more open environment for their industry in the United States. Re/code noted that 46 states have considered drone legislation this year.

Published on: Sep 10, 2015