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Drone Bill Approved in W.Va. Senate

SenateFloorAbove2017.jpg

A bill to create guidelines for drones in the state has made its way through the West Virginia Senate.

Senate Bill 9 creates guidelines for the private and commercial use of drones or unmanned aircrafts. 

The bill says drones cannot be flown within 100 feet of someone else’s home, says you cannot take video or still images on someone else’s property without their expressed permission, and requires law enforcement to get a warrant before using a drone in an investigation.

There are exceptions for police officers though that allow them to use drones for public safety and search and rescue purposes.

The bill also prohibits the taking of photos and video on industrial sights, like at a coal mine, a natural gas processing facility, or a power plant, although Senate Judiciary Chair Charles Trump explained on the floor there is an exception to the provision.

“We recognized in trying to craft this piece of legislation with some balance that there are times when a designated industrial facility or the owner of it wouldn’t want a drone over that property,” Trump said on the floor.

Media outlets, according to Trump, who obtain a license from the Federal Aviation Administration receive a number of exceptions under the bill to protect the freedom of the press.

Senators, however, were interested in how personal usage of drones would be affected by the legislation, like Senate Minority Leader Roman Prezioso who questioned Trump about taking aerial shots of entire cities.

“If you...took that picture, there’s not expectation of privacy there. You’re shooting the buildings, the streets, the traffic, the people, people have no expectation of privacy when they’re out and about like that," Trump explained, "but if someone were to fly a drone from someone’s bedroom window and take pictures from the outside of inside the house, there is an expectation of privacy.”

The bill does create a number of misdemeanor offenses for violating various areas of the bill, including harassment or operating a drone while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Fashioning a weapon on a drone would be a felony.

All three offenses are punishable with fines and jail time. 


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