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Ga. lawmakers to consider drone bill


When the Georgia legislative session starts Monday, a new bill restricting the use of drones will land on lawmakers desks.

House Bill 5 lays out who can use drones, why and where. It also spells out penalties for rule breakers.

13WMAZ talked to one of the state's leading drone experts about the bills merits.

Flight student at Middle Georgia State College's Aviation campus in Eastman, Dakota Neilson gets it: People fear drones, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV's) invading their privacy.

As he flew a small drone, he said, "They don't understand the concept. They don't understand this is the next generation of aviation."

Neilson studies under Chad Dennis.

Dennis is the chairman of the state's Unmanned Aerial Systems working committee.

The group's researchers and aviation experts are at the forefront of developing drone technology and its uses in Georgia, alongside state leaders and the Federal Aviation Administration.

Dennis said, "We don't want UAV's flying everywhere, for whatever reason. We want to make sure there's a legitimate use."

The FAA has yet to release a full set of rules for UAV's, which Dennis says makes setting state law about them a little tricky.

House Bill 5 is Georgia's attempt.

Dennis said, "As a whole, the bill seems to offer a lot of positive things."

It spells out when and where researchers, law enforcement and private citizens can use drones, when they can capture images, and the bill would make breaking the law a misdemeanor, punishable by fines.

Dennis said, "This bill is designed in a lot of ways to protect people's rights to privacy."

But the bill may go too far, Dennis says, potentially harming drone development and their uses.

For example, the bill would limit the height at which researchers, such as Georgia Tech, can fly, to below a level already approved by the FAA.

Dennis said, "Let's not put regulations in place that will stifle a technology. Let's put regulations in place that will control what people do with that technology."

Currently in Georgia drones are not allowed for commercial use.

The FAA has granted a few exceptions to movie companies and an agricultural research firm.

Drones for private use are governed by model aircraft rules.

Law enforcement agencies can apply to the FAA to use drones for specific uses, but Dennis says so far, none have used drones in Georgia.

Dennis says the UAS working group plans to make recommendations to a UAS policy group in the next few weeks. That policy group will advise legislators on crafting drone legislation for Georgia.


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