If you bought your child a drone for the holidays and you live in Albany NY, you may have to check your receipt. A public hearing at the Albany County Courthouse on December 8 will review a law introduced by Albany county legislative representative Frank Commisso (District 11) proposing a total ban on drones.
The proposal, which can be read here, states that as drones have gotten less expensive and more available, the need for laws increases. While the proposal acknowledges that drones may provide useful technology for city agencies, it states that “the increasing density of drones around Albany County poses a significant risk to persons, property and aircraft in Albany County and that the County is responsible for protecting the interests of its citizens.”
The proposal then gets bluntly to the heart of the matter – an all out ban on any and all commercial and recreational drones, stating: “Therefore, the purpose of this law is to ban the use of drones by non- government agents or agencies in Albany County.”
The proposal outlines that government agents may use drones only in the course of their prescribed jobs for the benefit of the community:
“GOVERNMENT AGENT” shall mean any individual who is authorized to use and operate a drone consistent with requirements of their position in order to fulfill their official duties. Any and all uses must be within the scope of the government agency or its mission…No person shall use or operate a drone within Albany County, unless they are a government agent acting within the scope of their official duties.
Violation of the proposed law could be convicted of a misdemeanor crime, subject to moderate fines: up to $250 for the first violation, and up to $500 for each subsequent violation of the law. But a violator who also flies within 3 miles of any airport in the county or contiguous areas would be guilty of a criminal violation, and subject to a hefty $5,000 fine and a prison sentence of up to 1 year.
The proposal, like others, has been written in the absence of official Federal (or state) regulation. Albany County has at least recognized this, and made provisions for their own regulations to take the back seat to federal regulations as they are developed, stating: “This law shall be null and void on the day that Statewide or Federal legislation goes into effect, incorporating either the same or substantially similar provisions as are contained in this law, or in the event that a pertinent State or Federal Administrative Agency issues and promulgates regulations preempting such action by the County of Albany.” Still, the proposal represents the most draconian of proposed state and area regulations yet published; and certainly will not encourage commercial drone use in Albany County.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
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