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McKeon Bill Package to Regulate Drone Usage Flies Through Assembly Committee

Legislation Addresses Education, Geo-Fencing and Seeks to Expand Restrictions

(TRENTON) – The use of drones is becoming more and more commonplace. They are used by the military, law enforcement, retailers and citizens. Aiming to better regulate the unmanned aerial vehicles and educate drone flyers, a 3-bill package sponsored by Assemblyman John McKeon was approved today by the Assembly Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee.

“As technology evolves we need to evolve our laws to keep pace,” said McKeon (D-Essex, Morris). “The use of drones can help keep our residents safe, simplify their lives at times and even be used strictly for recreational purposes, but we must have commonsense laws and a clear understanding of guidelines to guard against their misuse.”

The first bill (A-2880), would require certain drones to have geo-fencing technology and makes flying the devices without the technology a fourth degree crime. Geo-fencing is a software program feature that uses GPS or radio frequency identification to define geographical boundaries and create a virtual barrier.

“Geo-fencing will prevent a drone from flying 500 feet and within two miles of an airport or protected airspace which includes sports and entertainment stadiums with a seating capacity of 30,000 or more,” McKeon explained. “We definitely want to avoid allowing drones to fly over crowded baseball or football stadiums because of the public safety risk that would pose.”

Under the measure, a person who sells or operates a drone that is not equipped with geo-fencing technology is guilty of a fourth degree crime.

The second bill (A-2881), would require certain retailers to provide notice to consumers of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) safety guidelines for flying a model aircraft, which includes a drone and is operated for hobby or recreational purposes. The retailers would be required to post a sign at the point of purchase to provide every drone buyer with the written notice containing the FAA safety guidelines.

“Ensuring consumers know the safe and correct way to fly drones is not a heavy lift,” McKeon stated. “Not everyone knows that drones are not to be flown over emergency response efforts or near other aircraft. This bill will help educate the public and that’s a good thing.”

The final piece of legislation (AR-103), urges the Administrator of the FAA to promulgate rules and regulations to further restrict the flight of drones over certain populated areas.

“Unmanned drones have been reported over parades, and have crashed into the stands of stadiums at sporting events, including a U.S. Open tennis match, and there has been a drastic increase in pilot sightings of drones,” McKeon said. “We’re simply requesting that the FAA review its current regulations to determine if more safety-related policies should be put in place.”

The bills now head to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.