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30Apr 2019

U.S. Drone Law Updates: Which drone bills should you watch?

U.S. Drone Law Updates: Which drone bills should you watch?

Welcome to our new segment sharing monthly updates on U.S. drone laws and legislation.

While the federal government is proposing laws to relax restrictions on drone use by making it easier for pilots to fly over people or at night without a waiver. Many states are seeking to tighten drone regulations on drone use.

Common issues addressed in state drone legislation include:

Drone use by the general public:

Prohibited use

Allowed use

Set criminal charges for misuse

Drone use by law enforcement and first responders:

Define allowable uses or exceptions to restricted uses

Establish a policy for data retention

Protect LE and first responders from liability


Earlier this year, we wrote about the possible 2019 trend of more state-level drone regulations. So far, states are meeting our expectations by passing drone law and introducing drone legislation.

We put together two lists of drone regulations to keep you up-to-date:

New drone laws by state

Drone bills to watch by state

New State Drone Laws:

These bills have passed recently. They either amend existing laws or will become new laws in their respective states.

Arkansas

Arkansas lawmakers recently passed four bills amending existing laws. Three of the bills amend § 5-60-103 and one amends § 5-16-101.

1. As of March 6, 2019, HB1347 is now Act 320: This act amends § 5-60-103 concerning the definition of “unmanned aircraft system.”

2. As of March 18, 2019, HB1646 is now Act 508: This act amends § 5-60-103 concerning the definitions of "critical infrastructure" and "unmanned aircraft system" for the offense of unlawful use of an unmanned aircraft system.

3. As of March 13, 2019, HB1438 is now Act 461: This act amends § 5-16-101 concerning crime of video voyeurism and penalties for persons who commit repeat offenses

4. As of April 17, 2019, SB612 is now Act 1000: This act amends § 5-60-103 concerning the the definition of "critical infrastructure." It adds “a communication tower or facility” to the list facilities that are defined as critical infrastructure.

Kentucky

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin signed Kentucky Senate Bill 157 on March 25, 2019. The new law will make it a criminal act to fly a drone over a prison without prior authorization. The law defines a prison as a “key infrastructure asset,” and makes violations a Class B misdemeanor for the first offense, and a Class A misdemeanor for a second or subsequent offense.

Montana

On April 18, 2019, Montana Governor Steve Bullock signed Montana House Bill 257. This act amends SECTION 46-5-109 of current Montana law. The Act allows law enforcement to use data collected by an unmanned aircraft system during a motor vehicle crash scene investigation. This data can be admitted into evidence or used to obtain search warrants.

Tennessee

In April 2019, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed two new laws pertaining to drones. Both laws are effective on July 1, 2019.

1. On April 3, 2019 SB0349/HB0154 became Pub. Ch. 40:

This law makes it a criminal act to drop items or substances from unmanned aircraft into an open-air event venue where more than 100 persons are gathered for a ticketed event.

2. On April 9, 2019, SB0306/HB0308 became Pub. Ch. 60:

This law increases the penalty for using an unmanned aircraft over a critical infrastructure facility without the business operator's consent from a Class C misdemeanor to a Class E felony.

It also adds “communication service facilities” to the types of facilities that are considered critical infrastructure facilities.

Virginia

Virginia Senate Bill 1507 was approved on March 22, 2019 and will be effective starting July 1, 2019. This bill amends an existing bill related to drone use by law enforcement officers. The bill adds to the ways LE can use unmanned aircraft systems without a warrant.

State Drone Laws to Watch:

These bills have been introduced, or have moved to the next stage of legislation, in their states.

Florida

Florida HB 75 has moved to the next stage in the legislative process; it was engrossed on April 23, 2019. The bill seeks to give law enforcement permission to use drones for specific purposes.

Missouri

Missouri HB 324 would make it illegal for drone pilots to fly an unmanned aircraft near any correctional center, private jail, county jail, municipal jail or mental health hospital.

On April 1, 2019, a public Senate hearing was held to discuss Missouri HB 324. The discussion gained attention when St. Louis Cardinals Vice President and General Counsel, Michael Whittle, asked for 'No Fly Zone' around open-air stadiums to be added to the provisions.

Texas

In April, Texas lawmakers engrossed three different bills relating to UAS, or drones.

1. On April 4, 2019 Texas SB59 was engrossed. This bill relates to certain images captured by an unmanned aircraft. It adds images “captured while delivering consumer goods at point of delivery for the purpose of confirming delivery”  to the list of lawful ways to capture images using drones. This bill seems particularly interesting and could signal drone delivery for Texans in the near future!

2. On April 11, 2019, Texas HB2340 was engrossed. This bill seeks to establish an “Unmanned Aircraft Study Group” to help law enforcement and first responders more effectively use drones in response and recovery efforts.

3. 1On April 17, 2019, Texas SB2299 was engrossed. This bill adds military installation to definition of “critical infrastructure facility.”

Check back every month for new drone law updates. Want to learn more about 2019 State drone laws and regulations? Check out our Learning Center for up-to-date information on Federal and State drone laws.

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