Connecticut may be one of the first states to pass local drone laws restricting the modifications that owners can make to their drones, after a CT college student posted YouTube videos showing drones mounted with a flamethrower and a gun. (Original video included in AP clip below.)
While the videos caused local lawmakers concern, no current CT laws appear to have violated as the video was taken on wooded private property, where it was legal to discharge a firearm. Austin Haughwout, the teen who posted the videos, is a sophomore at Central Connecticut State University, where he is studying mechanical engineering. The teen and his father argue that new laws are unnecessary, as Haughwout caused no harm with his drones and was just interested in how they worked.
There are two bills that would restrict the use of drones proposed, and public hearings were held yesterday and today. One bill prohibits the use of drones to release tear gas or other poisonous substances, or to control a deadly weapon or explosive device. Penalties would include jail time of 1 – 10 years. The second bill would create similar restrictions, but also tacks on limits for how state agencies and law enforcements may use drones.
Connecticut lawmakers discussed similar drone laws restricting the use of drones to control deadly weapons, explosives or incendiary devices: that bill was passed by the Senate, but died in the House. The legislation was a comprehensive drone package that would have changed Connecticut’s privacy laws to include drone use, and established standards for police use.
“People need to understand the consequences of misusing drones and until the message gets out there, I don’t think there is enough public awareness,” state Rep. William Tong, D-Stamford, co-chairman of the Judiciary Committee, told the CT Post. “We want to criminalize reckless use. We don’t want people flying them a half mile away and causing an injury or hitting a car. If something very bad happens, it will be too late, so we need to act now to prevent that from happening.”
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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