Update on the Attempt to Make Aerial Photos of Homes Illegal in New Hampshire

Aerial Power Lines - Copyright Carolyn E. Wright

Bill Hemmel has provided an update to the previous blog entry on the attempt to make aerial photos of homes illegal in New Hampshire.  He attended the hearing on the bill and reports as follows:

NH House Bill 619-FN – “AN ACT prohibiting images of a person’s residence to be taken from the air”

The NH House Criminal Justice and Public Safety committee held a hearing on this bill [on] 2/19/2013. Besides the author of this bill (Rep Neal Kurt, R-Hillsboro) and the committee, there were quite a few others in attendance, some surprising. They included the United States Army, NH DOT (Bureau of Aeronautics), the ACLU, and NH State Police, along with paid lobbyists for the NH Broadcasters Association and Apple Computer. A lobbyist from TechAmerica – representing many major hitters in the drone industry – was also there, along with myself and the owner CR Helicopter in Nashua.

The original bill was never submitted to the committee. (My guess is that Rep Kurt received so much flak prior to the hearing, he re-thought his position.)

30 minutes before the hearing started, he presented a revised amendment that deleted all references to anything other than drones. In his opening remarks, he admitted that the bill was conceived after he saw a $300 drone toy – with video – for sale in a mall this past Christmas.

While providing exceptions for law enforcement, the bill now makes it a FELONY for an individual to use a drone for “surveillance”. Surveillance, as defined in his new bill, would include photographing the inside of a building (huh?), or a “recognizable” image of a persons face. (Thus your 12 year old, flying a toy over
the neighbors pool and recording video, would technically be a felon if convicted.)

The bill also prohibits the use of drones carrying weapons or “lazer rays” (honest!), and specifies that they cannot be used to hunt game. First to testify was a Brigadier General from the US Army. He began by firmly reminding the committee that the airspace above New Hampshire was not owned by New Hampshire, but by the United States of America, and therefore controlled by the FAA. One of the committee members challenged him as to where that authority came from. The General was kind enough to quote chapter and verse. There were no more questions.

The only participants to speak in favor of the new bill were the NH Dept of Safety and the ACLU. All others spoke against it.

At the time of recess, a vote had not been taken. A post-session conversation with one of the committee members leads me to believe that the bill will not be included in this years legislation, but may be held for review again next year.

This new version of the amendment is [now] available online at http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/legislation/amendments/2013-0448H.html

The New Hampshire branch of the ACLU supports the new bill (see http://nhclu.org/hb-619/).

The Concord Monitor newspaper has reported on the latest status of the bill (look for “Drones be gone” towards the middle of the page at http://www.concordmonitor.com/home/4869803-95/state-bill-budget-committee.

Thanks to Bill Hemmel for these updates!

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