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State lawmakers grapple with drone issues

By Sam Eifling / Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 02:17 p.m. HST, Feb 18, 2014

State lawmakers are considering a bill that would make it illegal for police to monitor people with unmanned aircraft without due process.

Police, hobbyists, filmmakers and regulators told lawmakers Tuesday that the state should protect people's privacy. But they urged lawmakers not to curtail the many uses for unmanned aircraft beyond police surveillance, including commercial photography, search and rescue operations, resource management and recreational use.

Large drones like the ones the U.S. military and border patrol uses aren't the only style of unmanned craft that would be regulated. Police departments and the public can buy small remote-controlled helicopters and little airplanes made of Styrofoam for just a few hundred dollars.

AJ White, a cameraman who uses a multirotor helicopter in his work with Kailua-based Blue River Productions, said mounting cameras on radio-controlled aircraft is already commonplace in television and film.

"Drones automatically imply futuristic spying," he said. "But literally it's just me 50 feet away with a remote control."

A version of the bill, Senate Bill 2608 SD1, before the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor would restrict unmanned aircraft use to law enforcement, people testified. Committee Chairman Clayton Hee, a Democrat representing Waialua, Wahiawa and Koolauloa, said he would amend the bill to make room for other uses, in line with the Federal Aviation Administration's regulations.

Along the way lawmakers heard from an array of people who outlined the many uses for unmanned craft, which are sure to continue vexing regulators in Hawaii, as they have elsewhere.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources wants to be able to use the craft to monitor coral reefs and wildfires safely and cheaply. Groups representing farmers and ranchers said they want to use unmanned aircraft to monitor fence lines, watch for wildlife, assess storm damage and keep track of cattle.

One hobbyist, Billy Van Osool, said native Hawaiian groups have asked him how to use the craft to help them survey their land.

"For those that are using them responsibly, that are using them with safety in mind, we would like to continue with the use of drones," he told lawmakers.

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entrkn wrote:
Drones are here so get over it and and make the most of it.
on February 18,2014 | 01:11PM
livinginhawaii wrote:
We already have way too many laws on the books, many of which are either broken or unenforceable. Why don't members of the legislature focus on fixing what is broken instead of introducing more problematic laws?
on February 18,2014 | 01:18PM
LittleEarl_01 wrote:
IRT lovinginhawaii. Because they have no answers to the hard problems facing the state, therefore they waste time on meaningless bills.
on February 19,2014 | 05:34AM
WaialaeGuy wrote:
There are already laws against "peeping toms" so that is covered. We should see what drones are used for in Hawaii before banning them outright. So far, I have heard about drones taking videos of real estate and surfing. I have not heard of anyone using them in outright spying.
on February 18,2014 | 02:21PM
DownSpout wrote:
State lawmakers should consider curtailing some of the lengthy droning that goes on in their committee rooms.
on February 18,2014 | 02:36PM
onevoice82 wrote:
on February 19,2014 | 04:31AM
st1d wrote:
the bill effectively bans balloons on a string, kites, hobby kits that fly and paper airplanes.
on February 18,2014 | 03:21PM
Stevebunting wrote:
By definition, “drones” are capable of flight without human intervention. The term everyone should be using is “unmanned aerial vehicle” or, UAV. Not as sexy as drone, but more correct. Thank you to Senator Hee, and the other members of the Judiciary and Labor Committee for their willingness to listen and amend the proposed bill.
on February 18,2014 | 05:56PM
onevoice82 wrote:
Unmanned aerial vehicle also conjures up images of a" larger" vehicle. How about; "aerial cam copter" ACC?
on February 19,2014 | 04:35AM
HanabataDays wrote:
I have one of these li'l UAVs. It's one of the larger hobbyist quadcopters. being about 2 feet square. Its battery gives it a flight duration of ten minutes and it's limited to less than 500' range by the transmitter power. And yes, it does have a "keychain" videocam. Current "peeping tom" laws as well as these flight limitations should cover this type of hobbyist UAV. The issue addressed by this specific bill has to do with limits on systematic spying by police or similar "contractors". And this type of legislation is needed now, before the fact. It can always be court-tested and refined subsequently if needed, but we need something on the books.
on February 19,2014 | 05:39AM
leino wrote:
Too cool!! http://vimeo.com/86812942
on February 19,2014 | 06:22AM
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