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Quijano, Benson, Fuentes & Lagana Bill to Regulate Drones Gains Panel OK

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Annette Quijano, Daniel Benson, Angel Fuentes and Joseph Lagana to establish rules and regulations regarding the use of civilian drones was advanced by an Assembly panel on Thursday.

“Our top priority when it comes to drones has to be protecting the safety and wellbeing of all New Jersey residents, and that means taking any suspicious activity whatsoever very seriously,” said Quijano (D-Union). “This legislation makes it clear that using drones for the surveillance of sensitive locations cannot be tolerated.”

The bill (A-4344) would make it a fourth degree crime to monitor, observe, photograph or electronically record critical infrastructures, including but not limited to those related to transportation, emergency services, power generation and chemical refining, using a privately-owned drone without obtaining prior written consent. A fourth degree crime is punishable by up to 18 months imprisonment, a fine of up to $10,000 or both.

The measure also would require such drones to be registered with the Division of Aeronautics in the Department of Transportation and insured.

“Safety has to be the primary focus as New Jersey considers how best to assess and manage the risks associated with civilian drones,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “This legislation will help establish order to keep drones out of the wrong hands and ensure that lawful drone operators have a clear understanding regarding liability should an accident occur.”

“Just as there are clear rules regarding vehicles on New Jersey’s roads, there should be clear rules regarding vehicles in our airspace as drones gain popularity,” said Fuentes (D-Camden/Gloucester). “Measures like this will help keep our state safe and secure.”

“Drones certainly have the potential to be useful for commercial and recreational purposes, but they also have the potential to play a role in threatening national security or causing personal injury and property damage,” said Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic). “This bill will introduce regulations governing these vehicles in order to discourage misuse and limit the extent of misunderstanding related to who’s liable for accidents.”

A violation of the bill’s provisions regarding registration and insurance would be subject to a civil penalty of no less than $1,000 for a first offense and no less than $5,000 for a second or subsequent offense. A second or subsequent offense may also result in a two-year suspension of registration.

The bill was advanced by the Assembly Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee, of which Quijano is chair.