Town Joins Discussion On Drone Laws

By Andrew Wroblewski

awroblewski@longislandergroup.com

 

Legislation has been offered by Huntington Councilman Mark Cuthbertson addressing privacy and safety concerns over recreational use of camera-equipped unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) – such as the pictured Phantom 2 Vision+ flying camera.

Legislation has been offered by Huntington Councilman Mark Cuthbertson addressing privacy and safety concerns over recreational use of camera-equipped unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) – such as the pictured Phantom 2 Vision+ flying camera.

As drone technology becomes increasingly more available to the public, safety and privacy concerns continue to rise. Amidst chatter by federal, state and county levels of government, Town of Huntington officialshave joined the conversation on how to regulate recreational use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

Legislation proposed by Huntington Councilman Mark Cuthbertson, is looking to regulate the use of UAS in order to protect property and privacy rights.

“We’ve noticed the prevalence of drone use around town and are concerned about the privacy and safety aspects of that use,” Cuthbertson said. “We’ve got these things very close to the surface and they really implicate land use and health and safety.”

The legislation would create a new chapter in town code to regulate UAS. Regulations would include banning use of camera-equipped drones to obtain photos or videos of individuals when there is a reasonable expectation of privacy. 

During the June 9 town board meeting, Huntington board members voted 4-1 to schedule a public hearing on the legislation. The hearing is set to take place at town hall on July 14 at 2 p.m. 

The lone dissenter was Councilwoman Susan Berland who said that , as an emerging technology, much is still “unknown” about UAS and, therefore the board should wait to see how other levels of government regulate the devices before acting.

“I think it’s premature at best,” Berland said during the June 9 meeting. “The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is working on rules and regulations for private use. The county was considering [legislation] incredibly similar to this and they decided to table it at this point.”

The FAA announced in May plans to focus on research, education and training in areas critical to the integration of UAS into the nation’s airspace through its research team:  Center of Excellence for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (COE). The COE is expected to begin research by September 2015 and be fully operational and engaged in a research agenda by January 2016.

Earlier this year, Suffolk County lawmakers sought to regulate the use of camera-equipped UAS over county-owned facilities, but the legislation was tabled during an April 28 meeting.