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Study committee recommends restricting drones from public roads, prohibiting weaponization, etc.

A Georgia House of Representatives study committee on the use of drones has recommended prohibiting the weaponization of drones, prohibiting the use of drones for hunting or fishing, and restricting the use of drones near public roads.

With the recommendation to prohibit the use of drones near public roads without permission, "the concern there that we've heard from the law enforcement community and others is someone crashing a drone into the road, into a car, and causing an accident," said Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville, who chaired the study committee.

The study committee's report listed a total of 15 recommendations, which also include protecting citizen privacy by restricting photography of another person's property without permission and making it unlawful to take off or recover a drone from public or private property without permission.

Other recommendations are aimed at safety, including making it illegal to fly around or interfere with an emergency scene. The committee also recommended restricting drone flights in and around locations such as the state Capitol and allowing local governments to restrict use of drones on their public land.

Tanner said individual cities and counties may want to designate a certain section of a park for people to fly drones, while restricting them from other areas.

He said there could be exceptions to the rules for those who have clearances from the FAA to operate drones commercially.

The legislation "would be more geared toward a novice user, not necessarily a commercial user of a drone," Tanner said. "There's really nothing in these recommendations that will change how a responsible drone user (operates), if they're a responsible person using it correctly."

Tanner said he expects the recommendations to lead to legislation on drones during the coming legislative session, but it's too early to say whether a new laws will be passed.

"These are broad recommendations," Tanner said. "If it results in legislation, it will really have to be hammered out and drilled down, to word it in a way that makes it work legislatively."

The committee, which met four times this fall, also recommended forming a commission to develop policy and encourage expansion of the unmanned vehicle industry in Georgia.

A number of local companies have targeted the drone industry for development. Buford-based CCLD Technologies, for example, is a telecommunications engineering and construction firm that plans to use drones to inspect cell phone towers, bridges and other structures.

"There's so many things this technology can provide," said CCLD founder Brett Burke. To check the status of communications infrastructure after a disaster, for example, aerial surveying in the past would require a helicopter, which can cost thousands of dollars. "Now, if you need disaster recovery footage, then you use the drone, and at a fraction of the cost."

Here's the full list of the committee's recommendations:

1. Continue to monitor FAA Regulations with regards to registration requirements of hobbyist operators. The committee does not want to duplicate the process or hinder the industry.

2. Form a commission made up of legislators, researchers, industry experts, and others deemed appropriate to help develop policy and encourage industry expansion within the state.

3. Continue to encourage our universities and technical colleges to find ways to get involved by offering classes, certifications, or any other opportunities that may be deemed necessary.

4. Encourage the state and its agencies to use drone technology in areas where it could provide a cost savings or improve safety.

5. Look for opportunities to encourage venture capitalists to help with startups in Georgia.

6. Protect citizen privacy by making it unlawful to video or photograph another person’s property without permission with limited exceptions to this.

7. Prohibit weaponizing a drone.

8. Make it a violation to fly in or around certain locations such as the capitol.

9. Allow local governments to restrict the use of drones on their publically owned land.

10. Make it unlawful to fly around or to interfere with an emergency scene or to interfere with public safety personnel carrying out official duties.

11. Require law enforcement to have a search warrant to use drones in areas to collect evidence where someone has a reasonable expectation of privacy.

12. Require any videos or photos taken of private property by a government entity without evidentiary value to a specific case to be purged.

13. Make it unlawful to take off from or to recover a drone from private or public property without permission.

14. Prohibit use of drones for hunting and fishing or to use a drone to interfere with someone else that is hunting, fishing, or trapping.

15. Prohibit the use of drones within so many feet of a public road without permission.

Source: House Study Committee on the Use of Drones

More drone coverage:

FAA to require registration of drones

UAS task force recommendations (Source: FAA)

Drone rules coming as sales soar

Phoenix Air of Cartersville gets FAA approval for drones

FAA announces drone research program, partnering with CNN

Drone zones: Big chunk of Atlanta air space is restricted

PDK airport webpage aims to educate residents on drone safety

Georgia: Keep drones away from the Gold Dome


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About the Author

Business reporter Kelly Yamanouchi covers airlines and the airport.