Whether or not the FAA will have drone regulation sorted out by its Congressionally-mandated deadline of 2015, remains to be seen. But while the feds sit in committee, commercial UAVs are taking to the skies in greater numbers every day, forcing state governments to take matters into their own hands.
One state which has introduced legislation regarding drone aircraft is Michigan. The bills in question are House Bill No. 4455 and House Bill No. 4456, both of which were originally introduced in March 2013 by Republican Tom McMillin.
The bills have numerous provisions, but central to their ethos are the following elements:
– The authorization and regulation of the use of unmanned vehicles;
– To prohibit the state government of Michigan from acquiring a drone without legislative approval;
– To make it illegal to arm a drone aircraft with legal force within the state boundaries of Michigan;
– To require consent to be sought from any individual before they can be surveilled by drone aircraft;
– To ensure that agencies of law enforcement are only legally entitled to use drones to execute a warrant or during emergencies;
– To establish unauthorized use of a drone as a ‘public safety felony’, punishable by up to ten years in prison.
Additionally, the bills include certain provisions that ensure transparency from government agencies with regard to information collected by and held about drone aircraft. Michigan House Bills 4455 and 4456 prohibit any law enforcement agency from storing biometric data from non-target suspects, ensure proper destruction of surveillance collected, and ensure that any surveillance obtained outside of these particular pieces of legislation may not be used as evidence in court.
Michigan House Bill 4455 has received bi-partisan support, although the majority of sponsors of the bill were Republican. Both the American Civil Liberties Union and Common Sense in Government also testified in favor of the legislation, particularly citing the constitutional relevance of the Fourth Amendment.
Considering that the bills have received such prominent support from civil liberties organizations, and the inevitable nationwide – and probable global – scope of this issue, it seems likely that Michigan will eventually pass either these bills, or others with similar purpose, into legislation. Already 31 states have proposed drone-related legislation.
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com