NC Governor Roy Cooper Signs Drone Bills Into Law
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper has kickstarted August 2017 by signing two bills into law tackling a controversial, yet exciting topic: drones. House Bill 128 prohibits the use of drones near prisons, defining “near” as a horizontal distance of 500 feet and a vertical distance of 250 feet. House Bill 337 revises existing NC drone laws, changing the language so that regulations apply to model aircraft. Drone law expert and attorney Stephen Hartzell says the new legislation is “a way for North Carolina to show that it is ready, willing and able to do business” in the unmanned aerial systems industry (UAS). Ambiguities of previous law blurred lines between what was considered a “model aircraft” and what was a “drone”. Now the law establishes a single standard to eliminate these ambiguities. The measures are set to go into effect on December 1, 2017.

Drones are now a part of everyday life, but the law is slowly progressing as to how to regulate their use. Recall back in May 2015 when the Secret Service detained a man who crashed a drone on the White House lawn. Now drone-flyers have found ways to use drones to smuggle contraband, such as weapons, cigarettes, alcohol and communication devices into prisons. In at least two cases, drones have been found carrying contraband at or near North Carolina prisons and another half dozen reports of drones spotted flying near prisons. In early July a South Carolina inmate escaped from a maximum-security prison using tools reportedly delivered to him via drone. Those arrested for attempting to smuggle contraband into prisons via drones will now face a felony charge and a fine of up to $1,500.

“Criminals look to exploit the latest technology and we must make sure our laws keep up,” said Gov. Cooper.

“Drones are the newest way to get drugs and weapons behind prison walls and this law will help law enforcement fight prison contraband and the crime it causes.” Changes in drone law included in House Bill 337 tighten the state regulations so that they align more with federal regulation. Specifically, the minimum age for getting a commercial permit to operate UAS will be the age specified in federal law, 16. The language of the law now clarifies the UAS laws that will now apply to model aircraft as well. However, model aircraft users are still exempt from the North Carolina’s permitting requirements. In addition, people wishing to obtain a commercial permit can use any form of government-issued photo ID allowed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). These revisions also loosen the restrictions on the use of drones in emergency management. Previously, thermal and infrared were only permitted for scientific purposes, but now the new revisions allow private and commercial operators to assist law enforcement with emergency management efforts such as search and rescue. 

Best regards
und viele Grüße aus Charlotte
Reinhard von Hennigs