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Several Pieces Of Legislation Would Tighten Regulations On Drones In Oklahoma

commercial drone, unmanned aerial vehicle, UAV
Budi Nusyirwan
Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Oklahoma lawmakers have filed several bills this session that include limits on where drone operators can take their unmanned aerial vehicles.

Some of the bills would restrict flying over agriculture property and so-called critical infrastructure. Professional drone pilot Tom Kilpatrick told The Journal Record’s Dale Denwalt these laws would duplicate what’s already in federal aviation rules:

“If you want to regulate around agriculture properties or critical infrastructure, (the Federal Aviation Administration) has the ability to have your property dedicated as a no-fly zone and that information communicated to the flying public,” Kilpatrick said. He pointed to a fact sheet written by the FAA late last year that warns about a patchwork of laws if states and cities begin trying to regulate unmanned aerial vehicles. The only laws available to the states, according to the FAA letter, are regulations on police use, anti-voyeurism statutes, hunting and fishing rules, and prohibitions on firearms. State prohibitions on where to fly would force the creation of a state database, Kilpatrick said. “Somebody has to manage that database. Pilots have to check that database,” he said. “How do you know where one (agriculture property) begins and the other is just some guy’s vacation home out in the country? You don’t know.”

Still, lawmakers are concerned about privacy. State Rep. Casey Murdock has authored a bill that prohibits flights over agricultural property if the pilot has malicious intent. The northwest Oklahoma Republican, who’s also a rancher, said that when he’s checking to see whether a cow is pregnant, he doesn’t want an animal-rights activist filming him from above.

“To the untrained eye, that would look like abuse,” said Murdock, R-Felt. “That would be malicious intent if they are videoing that, because that would affect my character and economically, too.” Murdock’s bill was scheduled to be heard in committee Wednesday, but he held the bill until another meeting. “With the drones, before long everybody and their dog’s going to have one,” he said. “In the infancy of drones, it’s not a problem. But as more and more drones are out there, I think it’s a privacy problem.”

So far this year, none of the drone bills have been heard in committee.

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Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
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