On Tuesday, March 13, the Michigan House Committee on Communications and unanimously advanced a bill proposed by state Rep. Jim Lower of Cedar Lake as part of a larger legislative package to establish state guidelines for drones. The bill will now proceed to the full House for consideration.
House Bill 5498 offers a sentencing guideline making intentional drone interference with a key facility a felony with up to a four-year punishment. The language refers to “key facilities” as defined in the Michigan Penal Code, which include manufacturing plants, electric or natural gas utilities as well as telecommunication and correctional facilities.
“I want to protect our correctional facility and law enforcement officers who already have extremely difficult jobs to do,” said Lower. “It makes these facilities less safe when unmanned aircraft can drop contraband, weapons, phones and other items onto prison property for individuals housed there. These are the intentional and nefarious acts with drones that we needed to act on while also being careful to not infringe on what is a growing hobbyist and commercial activity.”
A 27-member Unmanned Aircraft Systems Task Force, appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder, began work in April 2017 to develop statewide recommendations on the operation, use, and regulation of unmanned aircraft in Michigan. The five bills offered within the legislative package largely reflect the task force’s policy recommendations.