'No Photos From The Sky' Bill Trimmed Back, But Still Could Create Felons Out Of Kids Playing With Toy Drones

from the silly-law dept

A few weeks back, we wrote about an absolutely ridiculous bill that was proposed in New Hampshire that would have made it illegal to do any aerial photography, if the images showed any "residential dwelling." As we noted, this would make things like various mapping services illegal. Given the criticism, it appears that the bill's sponsor, Rep. Neal Kurt, decided to rewrite it, limiting it to just "drones," after admitting that the whole idea for the bill came after he saw a toy drone for sale in the mall. Kurt appears to have an overactive imagination when it comes to those toy drones, because he's worried about them firing lasers, if the text of the bill (HB 619-FN) is any indication:
II. “Drone” means an unmanned flying machine that is capable of:
(a) Capturing images or sounds of objects or people on the ground, in or about buildings or structures, or in the air;
(b) Intercepting communications on the ground, in or about buildings and structures, or in the air; or
(c) Firing a bullet, LASER-type ray, other projectile or any kind of lethal or non-lethal weapon.
Unfortunately, the bill is still way too broad. While mapping programs may be legal, any use of a drone to photograph a person or people becomes a felony. Also if you photograph the inside of a building. From the sky. Maybe that's via the lasers. The only way around this law is to get "prior, written consent" from the person photographed.

This is the kind of bill you get when you have a politician with an overactive imagination, who sees a toy drone and can only think "bad things will happen with this," and refuses to consider the many cool things that can be done with drones today. Chris Anderson built a whole company after being inspired to build drones with his kids. If this bill passes, and he's in New Hampshire with his kids, having fun, teaching them things about building things, physics, aerodynamics and more, they could all become felons if their drone takes a photo of someone without "prior, written consent." That's just silly.

Thankfully, it sounds like most of the people who went to a hearing on the bill spoke out against it -- including a Brigadier General from the US Army who pointed out that the federal government has "exclusive sovereignty" over airspace, and the State of New Hampshire does not.
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.
It's a bit disappointing to see that the ACLU is pledging "strong support" for the bill. Yes, I understand the concerns and worries about domestic drone use by governments for surveillance purposes -- and I support efforts by various groups to build transparency and clear rules around such usage -- but this bill goes way beyond that.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2013 @ 4:18am

    "This is the kind of bill you get when you have a politician with an overactive imagination, who sees a toy drone and can only think "bad things will happen with this," and refuses to consider the many cool things that can be done with drones today."

    Once-up-on-a-time, state laws applied only to people and action in that state.

    In today's world pictures taken outside New Hampshire become viable in New Hampshire which according to current legal reasoning gives what ever jurisdiction over whoever post such pictures on the internet.

     

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  2.  
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    Michael, Mar 18th, 2013 @ 4:45am

    Drone

    (b) Intercepting communications on the ground, in or about buildings and structures, or in the air;

    I would love to know how you could have an unmanned flying machine that did not intercept communications from the ground or air. Wouldn't that just be either an out-of-control flying death-trap or self-aware flying machine intent on killing humans?

    Oh wait...I suppose you could still have a paper airplane.

     

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  3.  
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    Chris Mikaitis (profile), Mar 18th, 2013 @ 4:52am

    Why won't anyone think of the children!

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2013 @ 4:59am

    Compos Mentis be damned, everyone on an almost daily basis is a felon under all the laws and regulations with the force of law that are on the books today.

    Ignorance of the law is an excuse today.

    If your ever get on a jury and the law seems unjust to you you have the power and the right to nullify it with a not guilty vote.

     

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  5.  
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    anonymouse, Mar 18th, 2013 @ 5:00am

    MMMM!!!!!!

    "if you have nothing to hide then you wont have any problem with this"

    Is that not the governments normal answer to invading a persons privacy.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2013 @ 5:06am

    Dumbest idea for a law in a while!

    This moron being freaked out over a toy airplane is a sure sign that we need to require an IQ test in order to hold office.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2013 @ 5:08am

    "any use of a drone to photograph a person or people becomes a felony"

    *Not applicable to those in government or those who have large sums of money. Your mileage may vary, see your local representative for further abuse and neglect.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2013 @ 5:10am

    why oh why dont the stupid prats that think of these ridiculous bills just give the job up and go and work in a convenience store or similar, where they dont have an impact on only, perhaps, a few people at a time and dont have to think quite so hard about what they are doing?

     

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  9.  
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    special-interesting (profile), Mar 18th, 2013 @ 5:29am

    If I understand property rights the landowner has ownership or eminent control of to 1000 feet. I believe its called personal airspace. Most of the early airplanes never got above 1000 ft and surely were a common nuisance (conjecture). Over 1k ft its FAA territory.

    It would be nice to be able to have some device or trap to capture and analyses any aerial invading device entering personal airspace. Some model rocket like device with a range-finder or primitive radar and a large deployable net. You would need the range-finder to verify a less than 1000 ft entry. Either that or barrage balloons. (the neighbors will definitely complain)

    If it was your neighbors kids mischief you would give it back, if you knew their parents would punish them, appropriately. If it was government they would have to show a search warrant or get sued and of course the invading device is held for evidence.

    Except for legislation prohibiting government spying on citizens and or property have no good tech solution. Public awareness and strict, draconian even, rules for government is only true solution. Some rules for citizens also but these might be best to leave up to the civil courts. Despite the conflict of airspace interest this bill is interesting anyway. Can we get personal airspace raised to 1500-2000 ft (excepting landing and takeoff)?

    Since cars and aircraft are quickly going automated-remote control combination this bill would also make it illegal to take pictures out of future AI controlled airplanes. We already have automated guidance for foggy weather. Most likely all would both communicate their locations and get locations (hopefully (some sort of) local wifi and somewhat private) of other aircraft in same area thus always have some elements of remote control.

    Why all the sudden criminalization of every aspect of everyday life the last 15 years or so? Have the civil courts failed us that much? Is this some form of constitutional/legal/bureaucratic ignorance of voters in general? Has law become so removed from the average consciousness of the voter it becomes an act of faith on which candidate to support?

     

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  10.  
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    Dementia (profile), Mar 18th, 2013 @ 5:36am

    Considering there have been model rockets with cameras on them for several decades, if this was really that much of an issue, shouldn't it have been dealt with years ago?

     

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  11.  
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    Simon, Mar 18th, 2013 @ 5:36am

    My guess is he's paranoid of repurcussions due to Obama's impertinent drones-for-assassination program.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2013 @ 5:48am

    Drones can be used to drop water balloons and other pranks too, that is not the point.

    Youtube: Water Balloon Bomb Drop

    There are serious uses for it.

    Testing of integrity of infra-structure using sound waves or ultrasound, which in tall structures is safer to use a drone to go up there.

    Comparison of Pulse-Echo-Methods for Testing Concrete

    Not only that, but search and rescue operations, would they need permission to photograph houses or film them from above?

    Police work(I am not a fan of the police) but I do understand that they too have valid uses when they are not snooping or fooling around with it.

    That on the public side, on the private side, drones can be used for home security, realstate sales people are making use of them too to show houses, amateur cartographers, kids learning physics, teachers trying to teach those kids, parents wanting to encourage those kids, party displays and the like. Cameras enhance the maneuverability of the (semi)automated aerial vehicle, just take a look at the latest crop dusters to hit the market, without a camera to see where to dust the operator would have a view of the vehicle and area.

    Yes there is potential for privacy issues, but I can see all the good that can come out of it not just the bad.

    So this appears to me to be one of those cases where people should consider taking the good with the bad.

    If you want autonomous crop dusters, autonomous structural checks, electrical grid checking, security, mapping and other things you either allow it or make exceptions, the other alternative is pass the law the way it is and see all those things go away.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2013 @ 6:07am

    Re:

    Is this like toys-for-guns? You assassinate someone and you get a free drone? And that drone has a freakin' laser attached to it? Thanks Obama!

     

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  14.  
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    ChronoFish (profile), Mar 18th, 2013 @ 6:19am

    2 Questions

    1. How does this affect kites? Kites photography has been a budding hobby for at least 20 years.

    2. How does the "FAA controls Air Space" effect the similar bill introduced in Texas?

    http://www.legis.state.tx.us/tlodocs/83R/billtext/html/HB00912I.htm


    Or is the a case of Texas sovereignty?

    -CF

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2013 @ 6:31am

    Re: Dumbest idea for a law in a while!

    Wow, awkward run-on sentence, maybe I'm the one who needs an IQ test!

     

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  16.  
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    Some Other AC (profile), Mar 18th, 2013 @ 6:48am

    Re: 2 Questions

    Freaking wonderful! Just when I thought to lunatics in my states legislature could not get any worse. Between Rick Perry and this jack wagon, I am running out of reasons to love the state I live in. I sincerely hope that this crap gets shot down.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2013 @ 7:04am

    Re: MMMM!!!!!!

    "Security signs that begin with 'For your protection...' essentially end with '...we will restrict freedoms & invade privacy'" - Neil deGrasse Tyson

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2013 @ 7:13am

    They're trying to outlaw traffic report helicopters!

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2013 @ 7:33am

    Just a side note: New Hampshire has a gigantic legislature for such a small state (more than 400 members for about 1 million people - compare to California with fewer than a third as many legislators, and 30 times th epopulation). So there are many opportunities for cranks.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2013 @ 7:35am

    I think this is one of those privacy vs freedom conflicts. I do think there is a privacy issue here. If you're in your backyard, at least right now, you have an expectation of privacy and may not want drones in your back yard taking pictures. At the same time the freedom to take Arial pictures is important. This is something that needs to be considered carefully on both sides of the issue.

     

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  21.  
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    Overcast (profile), Mar 18th, 2013 @ 7:37am

    Why not? The government plans on using them no doubt - too much competition for them?

    Oh well - what are they going to do if they see it? How will this be enforced?

    Will a local cop shoot at one if he thinks it's military? So yeah - just make it look like one the CIA might use and you're good~

     

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  22.  
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    The Real Michael, Mar 18th, 2013 @ 7:51am

    Re:

    "Why not? The government plans on using them no doubt - too much competition for them?"

    My thoughts exactly. When it was just the US using them on foreign soil, the government acted with impunity, violating other sovereign nations' airspace and causing a great deal of collateral damage. Now that Russia, China and others are developing their own drones, all of a sudden, Obama and his administration are talking about setting down guidelines for their usage.

    From what I heard, during testing, some drones would malfunction or crash-land. One even managed to bump into another craft in the sky. Not very reassuring. What happens if one goes down in your back yard? Does somebody come along in a van, waltz onto your property and collect it? Also, suppose one of these things crash-lands on somebody or damages property? They'll probably accuse someone of tampering with it, so as to deflect blame.

    But all of that aside, why does our government want about 30,000 of these things up in our sky by 2020? So it's okay when the government flies around spying on people, but should a citizen uses one for similar purposes, suddenly it's a problem? Explain that one to me.

     

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  23.  
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    Chosen Reject (profile), Mar 18th, 2013 @ 8:05am

    Regardless of the actuall bill, I'm just happy the General could quote the law. That's more than the politicians could do. It's more than most cops can do. You'd think the people in charge or writing laws would know which laws they can write, and the people enforcing laws would know which laws they are enforcing. I really think it ought to be mandatory that every law enforcement officer be able to quote you the law they are enforcing, and every legislator ought to be know the laws that apply to them (federal, state, county, city, etc) forward and backward. If they can't because there's too much, then maybe simplifying the law books should be their first order of business.

     

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  24.  
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    Jeffrey Nonken (profile), Mar 18th, 2013 @ 8:16am

    People have been attaching cameras to model rockets, model airplanes, model helicopters, kites, and balloons for decades. Model blimps, dirigibles and Zeppelins? Have I forgotten anything? Probably somebody has attached one to the payload of a home-made catapult at some point.

    Probably on day 2 after the first successful launch.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2013 @ 8:35am

    Poor Politician

    I feel bad for the guy.

    I mean, after all, Politicians only do two things

    1.Give speeches to raise money

    2.Make laws


    The voters hired him to do those two things and now he is being horribly criticized for essentially doing his job.

    He probably didn't realized that he was supposed to propose sensible laws.

    Instead of attacking the use of drones for invading your privacy, he should have proposed that we outlaw Helicopters, small planes, balloons, jet aircraft and satellites AND flying lawn chairs with passengers carrying a point and shoot camera and a pellet riffle.

    Cut'em some slack, huh!

     

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  26.  
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    Jeffrey Nonken (profile), Mar 18th, 2013 @ 8:43am

    Re:

    Expectation of privacy in your back yard? Here's my sister-in-law's back yard.

    (OK, I lie. I don't even have a sister-in-law. That's just a random house in Irvine.)

    And police and news helicopters have been flying around for many years. I have two mildy amusing stories about surveillance choppers circling me and my friends.

    How about this neighborhood's expectation of privacy?

    Or me making sure the neighborhood kids were out of the line of fire while they watched me shoot bow from over the fence.

    Your back yard may not be considered a public place, but there is still a limited expectation of privacy.

     

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  27.  
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    jjmsan (profile), Mar 18th, 2013 @ 9:34am

    Re: Re:

    Lasers are ineffective at that size over long distances. Go with the helfire missle option.

     

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  28.  
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    special-interesting (profile), Mar 18th, 2013 @ 9:37am

    Aerial photos are actually legally and civilly tricky. Most aerial photo firms like late morning to early afternoon winter time slots so as not to catch the summer afternoon nude sunbather accidentally and not have to worry about deciduous tree foliage. (there are shadow issues also) As any regular photographer knows it takes tack and restraint to, build the trust needed to, survive.

    For any aerial shots, including the clever kite cam and other flying lawn-chair variety (I love it instantly, definitely on the want now list.) photos, we have legitimate privacy issues when a private moment is inadvertently caught on camera. These photos cannot be used without incurring significant civil liability (getting sued and rightfully so.) Especially if the photographer does this repeatedly which might (already) be more than a civil offense of quite a different matter.

    The random circling of police helicopters (if real) sounds like a form of harassment. Many cops love the opportunities of voyeurism and even the appearance of such behavior should be noticed. General privacy on your own property should always be respected. Just because anyone has the opportunitiy to view private lives does not mean they should.

    For civilians I think all this should be left to civil law. Military and government need strict regulation with sever penalties, including but not limited to, incarceration and fines. I expect more whinny screaming bloody murder cigarette augments from both.

    It is important that if you vote for anyone that you tell them what you expect from them.

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2013 @ 10:58am

    Re:

    If you are outdoors, anybody flying overhead can take you photo. Outlawing drones does not change this.

     

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  30.  
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    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Mar 18th, 2013 @ 2:35pm

    Will be a fun clash of priorities

    Some people are raising the issue of government and police running drones in this country. But, on the other hand, there's just too much commercial potential with drones for anyone to actually pass laws against them.

    I've been more concerned with private companies monitoring people than with government monitoring people because I think the private companies monitor more people and collect more data than government. However, I can see some jobs where private companies will be able to do it when government won't be. The example that comes to my mind is monitoring gun use. The gun lobby might prevent police from monitoring people with guns, but private companies might be able to do that under the radar. If someone is acting weirdly and has access to guns, there might be no legal way to head off potential trouble, but private companies might be able to quietly monitor those people. I mean, there's already enough info being provided online for companies to detect patterns that might indicate future problems. Keeping track of those people wouldn't be that hard to do. And if it is done by a private company paying politicians, who are the politicians going to block?

     

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  31.  
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    tomxp411 (profile), Mar 19th, 2013 @ 8:46am

    Re: Drone

    Think about football: when you catch a ball meant for the other team, that's an interception. When you catch your QB's throw, that's just receiving a pass.

    It's the same in radiospeak. Intercepting communications is defined as receiving communications not intended for you.

    Receiving radio control transmissions intended to control that device does not count as interception.

     

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  32.  
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    tomxp411 (profile), Mar 19th, 2013 @ 8:53am

    Outdoors - fair game. Indoors - bad idea.

    Using a drone over private property should be treated exactly as if a person was standing in that spot: the same trespassing offenses should apply to unmanned, remote control cameras (whether aerial, on wheels, or on legs.)



    I agree that private individuals should not be flying radio-control gunships.

    Private parties can't photograph open spaces or receive radio signals from an unmanned aircraft. Intercepting radio signals is already a protected activity, within certain bounds. It should remain that way.

     

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  33.  
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    Burst, Mar 19th, 2013 @ 7:33pm

    I'm vehemently against any legislation that bans my toy helicopter fights.

    Outlaw unmanned Nerf weapons! No more dead G.I. Joes!

     

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  34.  
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    stimoceiver (profile), Apr 6th, 2013 @ 2:32am

    everyone needs drones

    everyone needs drones. I'm a big fan of John Robb's idea for a "Drone Net".

    That said, until the FAA can come up with some sort of identifying marking - or "identify friend or foe" for "friendly" or "law enforcement" drones, I would say it should be well within my rights as a citizen to disable and detain any drone that violates the airspace of my own private property.

    And you know the very first time some activist uses a drone to spy on a factory farm, the corporations will be clamoring for this right.

    I mean what would it really take to knock most non-military drones out of the sky. A few perimeter targetting RADARs or LIDARs and a couple remote aimable tennis ball or baseball training launchers?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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