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State Laws Could Ground Even Hobbyist Drones

Tuesday, February 12th 2013
By Adena Schutzberg

Texas House Bill 912--and similar laws under debate right now in Oregon and elsewhere--are driving a burgeoning debate about how to use and control unmanned air systems, from anAR.Drone to a quadcopter. The Federal Aviation Administration is in the process of drafting new rules governing unmanned aircraft in civilian airspace, including military-style aircraft. But in the meantime, plenty of cheap, easy-to-use aircraft are already popular among hobbyists and, increasingly, activists and law enforcement. ...

Texas state Rep. Lance Gooden, a Republican, is the sponsor of the latest bill, which would make it a misdemeanor to take photos with an unmanned aircraft. It’s unique because it criminalizes taking any data--photos, sound, temperature, even odor--of private property using an unmanned aircraft without the permission of the property owner. Law enforcement officers could only use drones while executing a search warrant or if they had probable cause to believe someone is committing a felony, and firefighters can only use drones for fighting fire or to rescue a person whose life is “in imminent danger.” Texas’ border-patrolling Predator drones are exempt within 25 miles of the Mexican border. There are additional penalties for possession, display or distribution of data captured by an illegally flown drone. Gooden said the goal is to protect Texans’ privacy.

Interestingly, it was in Texas that a hobbyist taking test photos found a meat packing plant dumping animal blood into a local stream, resulting in significant fines. The other issue this article raises is about the difference between capturing remotely sensed from an unmanned vs a manned vehicle. Why is it different?

- PopSci via ultrarunner Larry 

Image courtesy USGS

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