“Drunk droning” makes good headlines – and while operating a drone under the influence is 1) already against federal regulations, and 2) contrary to common sense, the headline has served to bring public opinion around to support a drone regulation bill that is more comprehensive than most reports suggest.
The bill not only prohibits drone operation under the influence of drugs or alcohol, but also operating “knowingly or intentionally in a manner that endangers the life or property of another,” says the bill text. In addition, there are restrictions on drone flight over prisons, drone use for hunting, or interference with emergency response.
To this point, the bill seems merely to reiterate reasonable behavior, providing NJ law enforcement with tools for dealing with rogue operators. But the final sections of the bill introduce new limitations with the potential to create unintended precedents. The proposal also identifies operation of a drone within a certain distance of an individual as violation of any restraining order against the operator.
The bill also provides that it is a violation of a restraining order or any other court order restraining contact with a person or location for a person who is subject to that order to operate a drone within a distance of a person or location that would violate the order.
In addition, under the bill, a special sentence of parole supervision for life may include reasonable conditions prohibiting or restricting a person’s operation of a drone in order to reduce the likelihood or recurrence of criminal or delinquent behavior.
The proposed NJ Bill, which has been passed by the Senate and scheduled to be voted on by the Assembly Monday, is not new to the state. The bill was twice “pocket vetoed” by Governor Chris Christie last year; this year he must vote it into law in the next two weeks before his term in office ends or lawmakers will have to try again.
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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