On Wednesday, the Senate passed House Bill 2599 to address growing concerns surrounding the popular use of drones. Sen. Ron Sharp is the principal Senate author of the measure that restricts flight of unmanned aircraft over “critical infrastructure” less than 400 feet above ground level or past their fence lines.
“What fences and barriers do to prevent trespassers at critical sites, House Bill 2599 is trying to do in the airspace with new technology of unmanned aircraft,” said Sharp, R-Shawnee. “Concerns have been raised that this bill isn’t needed because federal regulations already prohibit unmanned aircraft over such facilities. However, the FAA regulations are only guidelines to pilots and operators of unmanned aircraft to avoid such airspace, but there is not a strict prohibition currently.”
The bill defines “critical infrastructure” as locations that are completely fenced in or obviously marked to prevent intruders such as, among others, refineries, electric power generation facilities, gas processing sites, water treatment plants and dams.
The Senate amended the bill to require signage on critical infrastructure property that also forbids flight of unmanned aircraft without site authorization. The criminal penalty and misdemeanor offense were also removed and replaced with a provision that violators may be found civilly liable for damages to the critical infrastructure property, environment or human health.
HB 2599 exempts the government, law enforcement, the owner of the critical infrastructure facility, and operators authorized by the FAA to conduct operations over that airspace.
The measure now returns to the House for consideration of the Senate amendments.