“Freeze drone operator and drop that bottle of merlot!” is not the first thing you would think you’d hear out of law enforcement’s mouths while chilling out and enjoying operating your new super-cool flying machine. But it could be if you live in the garden state and you’ve had a little too much to drink.
New Jersey’s politicians are concerned with the operation and flight of unmanned aircraft and these law makers are determined to do something about it. Sponsored by NJ Senators Paul A. Sarlo and Jim Whelan, a bill is being considered to regulate and prohibit certain operations of drones within the state. If the bill were to pass, while flying or operating a drone, the New Jersey Bill would bar individuals from the following:
- Operating a drone while intoxicated or drunk
- Operating a drone which causes endangerment to the life of a person or a person’s property
- Operating a drone to take wildlife
- Operating a drone at or near a correctional facility or gather information about it or do surveillance of it
- Operating a drone that interferes with first responder who is working
- Operating a drone within the ordered distance of a person who is the subject of a restraining order
And in addition to this, the bill also talks about how if a person is on parole for endangering the welfare of a child, said person would be barred from operating a drone and that critical infrastructures can apply to the FAA to restrict or prohibit drone operations at or near them.
So if the bill passes, what does this mean for New Jersey residents? Well, for starters it means put down the bottle of Jack if you’re going to put a flying blender into the sky. Seems legit right?
But what else could it mean?
This bill, if passed, could mean that you wouldn’t be able to survey the layout of potential weaknesses of a prison to help your buddy plan his great escape from behind bars. And unfortunately for him, it also means you can’t fly that shiv, pack of cigarettes, or cell phone down to him while he’s working out in the yard either. Oh darn.
It also means that reporters and others with drones trying to catch up-close details at the live scene of an accident or crime where first responders are present can’t fly their machines into the scene, bumping into evidence, scaring victims, and just being completely inappropriate in an emergency situation for the sake of a story. Double darn.
With the bill passed, stalkers and domestic violence perpetrators who’s victims have retraining orders on them, won’t be able to peek at them electronically and hunters won’t be able to cheat at their game by viewing wildlife from the air before they make their move. And obviously, people will be ordered not to endanger other people’s lives or property with drones, and who can argue against that?
So let’s talk about what it means for critical infrastructure to be able to make an application to restrict or prohibit the operation of drones at or near them? Well, first we must define critical infrastructure. The Patriot Act of 2001 defined critical infrastructure as those “systems and assets, whether physical or virtual, so vital to the United States that the incapacity or destruction of such systems and assets would have a debilitating impact on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination of those matters.” This means the following sorts of things for example:
- Oil production facilities
- Telecommunications Structures
- Electrical Stations
- Natural Gas or Oil Refineries
- Dikes and Sluices (Water)
- Railroads, Airports, and Harbors
- Gas production facilities
- Police Stations and Military Bases
- Post Offices
- National Monuments
- Government Buildings
This application for restriction applies to both government and private infrastructure as long as it’s critical.
Lastly, there is the limitation barring drone operations to child endangers on parole. Everyone hopes that a someone who endangers a child has done it for the last time once convicted and sentenced, but in a state like New Jersey where an inmate becomes eligible for parole consideration after serving 1/3 their prison sentence, perhaps a few laws to keep parolees who have committed crimes against children in check are ok. It’s unimaginable that any parent would want their children to be viewed and recorded on camera by a drone operated by a child predator getting around the staying away from children part of being out of prison with an unmanned flying machine.
All in all, this new law would force people to use their common sense when operating and flying a drone. And if they have none, well, it provides the guidelines for what their common sense should be telling them.