State senator drafting legislation aimed at drones

Bill would not impact military aircraft

INDIANAPOLIS - Indiana State Sen. Jim Tomes, R-Wadesville, is drafting legislation aimed at cracking down on drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles.

UAVs are well known for their use by the military, but Tomes told RTV6's Kara Kenney there is a growing market for civilian and law enforcement usage.

Drones can monitor people and things from long distances, and some are equipped with weapons like rubber bullets to handle mobs or riots.

"I feel like this is a monumental intrusion," said Tomes. "There's always opportunities for misuse and I don't want us to ever get to that point, and that's why I'm working on this measure."

Indiana Sports Corp and Visit Indy are planning to use small remote-controlled aircraft to take aerial photography and video of downtown Indianapolis for use in future marketing.

Such activity would likely be banned under Tomes legislation.

"Sen. Tomes says this goes back to his safety concern because the radio communication can be lost between the controller and the actual device and someone may be hurt," said Whitney Moorman, press secretary for Tomes. "He says aircrafts have pilots on board that at least have last-ditch chances to save an aircraft if it malfunctions."

The bill would also make it illegal to use tax dollars to purchase a drone.

According to documents provided by the Federal Aviation Administration, more than a dozen law enforcement agencies in states like Texas and Florida are using drones, which typically cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"I don't want these things flying over neighborhoods," said Tomes, who pointed to drone accidents that have happened out of state. "I don't want these things falling out of the sky."

Kenney asked Tomes what he would say to Hoosiers concerned about his spending time on this legislation with so many people out of work.

"I'm involved in (jobs) too," said Tomes. "But we must also have legislators that keep a keen eye for things that approach from the other side."

Tomes said the legislation would not impact military drones.

"For military purposes, I support that 100 percent," said Tomes.

The Federal Aviation Administration does not comment on pending legislation.

The state of Virginia is considering legislation similar to what Tomes is proposing.

Also, federal lawmakers are considering a bill that would block the EPA from using drones to do surveillance on farms.

RTV6 reached out to several law enforcement agencies in Indiana but has yet to receive a response.            

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