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NH House gives preliminary approval to drone regulations

State House Bureau

January 07. 2016 9:59PM
The House gave preliminary approval to a bill that would begin state regulations for operating drones. (ISTOCK)

CONCORD — The House gave preliminary approval to a bill that would begin state regulations for operating drones.

The regulations would apply to both individually as well as government-owned drones like those used by law enforcement.

The prime sponsor of House Bill 602, Rep. Neal Kurk, R-Weare, said his intent was to encourage the development and use of drones in a way that does not violate individuals’ privacy.

“This would allow the creative efforts of business and individuals to go forward,” Kurk told the House before it voted 246-66 to initially approve the bill, “but say ‘There are limits.’”

Under the bill, which several House committees have worked on over the summer and fall, both government- and privately-owned drones would need permission to travel over private property.

Law enforcement would not be allowed to fly a drone below 250 feet over private property to collect information without the consent of the owner.

Drone owners would be required to follow all federal guidelines within five miles of an airport, weapons of any kind would be prohibited and they may not be used to harass or stalk anyone.

Law enforcement may use drones to gather evidence with a court warrant, in an emergency, to assess the scope of an incident or to counter a potential terrorist attack.

At the request of the Department of Safety, the bill would allow law enforcement to use drones to deploy tear gas, something several representatives opposed.

Rep. J.R. Hoell, R-Dunbarton, said law enforcement has other options to deploy teargas and does not need to use drones.

He also objected to the criminal provisions in the bill that would allow an adjacent landowner whose picture inadvertently appears in an image obtained through a drone to seek damages from the operator.

Under the bill, a public or private operator could face a Class A misdemeanor, which may include jail time, for violating the regulations.

“I believe that is overreach,” Hoell told the House.

Kurk said he believes the two issues raised by Hoell will be discussed when the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee reviews the bill before the House takes a final vote.

The criminal justice committee will hold a public hearing and then decide what recommendation to make on the bill.

House Executive Departments and Administration Committee Chairman Andrew Dana Christy, R-North Hampton, said drones are growing in popularity, noting an estimated 1 million were sold this Christmas.

“Some regulation is needed,” Christy said. “This is a small step in an ever-changing scene.”

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