With drones becoming more of a force in Louisiana, committee established to regulate them
At the first Louisiana Drone Advisory Committee, members discussed potential for drone highways
The Louisiana Legislature has sent Gov. John Bel Edwards a bill that could double the punishment for people who fly drones over petrochemical facilities, pipelines or grain elevators. (“Drone and Moon” by Don McCullough is licensed under CC BY 2.0)
The first meeting of the Louisiana Drone Advisory Committee showed the increasing impact of drone usage across the state. Over the last few years, drones have been incorporated into different areas, with Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries agents using drones to cut down on illegal oyster harvesting and police using them for aerial mapping of accidents.
The committee was created during the 2021 Regular Session to oversee the regulation of unmanned aerial and aircrafts systems in Louisiana. This will include keeping track of how many drone operators there are in the state, how many companies are using drones commercially and the economic impact of the industry.
The committee will also examine possibilities for drone highways and address legal issues with the Federal Aviation Administration concerning drone laws at a state and federal level.
Rep. Robert Owen (R-Slidell), who authored the bill that created the committee, said the state needed to carefully examine drone laws.
“This is a huge industry, I didn’t realize how big of an industry this actually is, and how much potential we have going forward,” Owen said.
One of the biggest issues the committee will face might be that of drone highways, designated airspace for aerial unmanned vehicles to travel. George Rey, committee vice chairman, said the committee would need to examine legal requirements for this very carefully.
“In essence, you’re starting to define airspace that you’re trying to regulate and they’ve (the FAA) been pushing back, but they haven’t taken it to court or anything like that. But I think the premise is very interesting,” he said.
While drones are increasingly more incorporated into business, drone hobbyists face tightening restrictions in the state.
Act 265 was signed by the Governor during the session, which increased fines for repeat drone offenses. Anyone caught flying a drone over critical infrastructure for the second time can now be fined between $500 to $4,000, or given a prison sentence between six months to two years.
Currently, every drone that weighs more than half a pound has to be registered, though some members said unregistered hobbyists were an issue.
“There are people flying that don’t register, don’t do anything, don’t even read the rules for the FAA and they’re flying over plants and everything else,” Rey said.
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