The Michigan State Capitol Commission voted unanimously Monday morning to ban drones from flying over the 136-year-old statehouse, “except under special circumstances,” with permission from the commission. Commissioners were concerned about everything from terrorism to an errant drone damaging the Capitol, a National Historic Landmark where millions of dollars are being spent on restoration.
But commissioners want the Legislature to give the policy more teeth through a statutory ban.
“We have some bite in here … (but) the reality is, there’s no penalty,” said Commissioner Tim Bowlin. “I would love to see us take this a little bit further.”
Commission Chairman Gary Randall said the Michigan State Police Capitol Security Section could enforce the drone ban through anti-trespassing laws. But policing drones has been notoriously difficult because some of the devices can be remotely controlled from miles away.
Civilian use of drones has boomed in recent years, especially since the Federal Aviation Administration in February announced long-awaited rules governing commercial use of the aircraft. Realtors, photographers, journalists, hobbyists and more have deployed devices.
But problems took flight, too, including a January drone crash on the White House lawn and drones interfering with wildfire battles. In response, states and even cities have sought to ground the devices. The National Conference of State Legislators says 15 states have some sort of statutory drone regulations, including Michigan’s ban on using drones to harass hunters or take game.
Other states, including Georgia and Texas, have specifically regulated drones around their capitol buildings — with mixed response.
The drone ban could be part of a list of changes to policies governing the public’s use of Michigan’s iconic statehouse. Randall on Monday named four of the six commissioners to a committee that will review those policies, which he said were last updated in 2008.
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