House Bill 1099, which passed without discussion, permits commercial use of drones in North Carolina with some caveats.
The bill, which received bipartisan support, prohibits:
Damage or disrupt any manned aircraft operations via drones;
Possess or deploy a drone armed with any weapons;
Photograph or conduct surveillance on any persons with a drone or publish drone-recorded photos without consent (unless the photos are recorded at “newsworthy events or events to which the public is invited”).
The bill also authorizes law enforcement to deploy drones to:
Conduct surveillance with a warrant;
Deploy drones to stop potential terrorist attacks
Curtail “imminent danger to life or serious damage to property;”
Stop the escape of a suspect;
Search for a missing person;
Record public gatherings on public or private property.
According to a report by WRAL-Raleigh: The bill would also establish guidelines for UAV users:
“Drone operators would have to be 18, pass a knowledge and skills test (still to be developed) and require a license for commercial use. Once the FAA permits commercial use, it still wouldn’t be allowed in North Carolina until the Department of Transportation implements testing and licensing or until May 31, 2015, whichever comes first.”
Much like a recent measure in Pennsylvania, the bill will prohibit the use of drones to harass hunters as well as banning hunting or fishing via UAV.
“Here we are, 111 years later, and we’re standing today on the precipice of the next era of aviation,” bill sponsor Rep. John Torbett told fellow House members. “‘First in Flight’ – why not be the first in unmanned flight as well?”
The bill’s legislative journey began in January with the formation of a special committee, chaired by Torbett and Rep. Michael Setzer to “study safety and privacy issues raised by unmanned aircraft systems [and] possible commercial and governmental uses of UAS and the potential economic benefits of UAS in the state.”
Having flown the friendly skies of the N.C. House, the bill will next launch into the often turbulent skies of the state senate.
The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that in 2013, 43 states introduced 130 bills addressing drone issues.