We have been lobbying hard against the proposed MT drone ban. Here's the latest story on the ban and our efforts to stop it.MT Drone Ban GF Tribune
HELENA – The state Senate on Wednesday tentatively approved a bill regarding unmanned aerial vehicles, putting forth a proposal that opponents say fly in the face of federal regulations and will outlaw drones in Montana.
Senate Bill 170 allows for fines for unauthorized operation of an unmanned aerial vehicle over property without permission. The word “drones” is not mentioned in the bill, but its sponsor, Sen. Steve Hinebauch, R-Wibaux, and other lawmakers used the word during their discussion on the Senate floor.
“The bill deals with a change in technology,” Hinebauch said, adding that drones and other unmanned aerial vehicles will be a great asset to business and personal enjoyment.
“Now I think it is time for us, states, to have regulations for property rights,” he said.
Hinebauch said it should not hamper access, adding “if you can drive it, you can fly it.”
However, the owners of Helena-based Big Sky UAV, which uses drones in its business, said they have talked with the Federal Aviation Administration and the bill will not stand up to federal government standards.
J.D. “Pepper” Petersen and Greg Heide after the vote said in their aerial photography business they use drones for “1,000” different tasks.
The say the proposed state rule does not allow drones to go under 500 feet and the FAA dictates drones cannot fly under 400 feet. They said most drones cannot fly above 400 feet, adding SB 170 contradicts federal law and effectively outlaws drones as most cannot fly higher than 400 feet.
However, they plan to oppose it in the House and should it become law, they will challenge it.
“We’re going to fight it and we’ll bring the FAA with us,” Petersen said.
The FAA declined to speak specifically on Montana’s proposed law, but forwarded this comment: “Federal law gives the FAA sole jurisdiction over the nation’s civilian airspace. Local governments looking to adopt drone ordinances should make sure their proposed laws don’t conflict with the FAA’s jurisdiction.”
Drone technology has grown by leaps and bounds in the past 20 years. Today, drones are used for aerial photography, surveying, security and warfare. There have also been claims of voyeurism and trespassing. Drones are also being used in some places for deliveries.
A drone flies toward sunrise at Fort Peck Dam. Senate Bill 170 allows for fines for unauthorized operation of an unmanned aerial vehicle over property without permission. (Photo: Tribune photo/Kristen Inbody)
Sen. Margie MacDonald, D-Billings, said about 35 states have passed laws regarding unmanned aerial vehicles.
She said SB 170 would make it hard for businesses that use drones as it conflicts with FAA rules. She said the bill needed more work.
Sen. David Howard, R-Park City, said companies such as Amazon are considering delivering packages with drones. He asked if Amazon would have to get permission from every property owner to fly over their home.
He said the bill was about a problem that doesn’t exist.
However, Sen. Keith Regier, R-Kalispell, said the bill was a good balance of personal property rights in Montana plus promoted drone technology.
The bill, which passed its second reading 30-19 and will undergo a third reading before moving on to the House, states the property owner is entitled to not less than $500 if the violation was above private property and not less than $2,500 if above a “critical” infrastructure facility.
Hinebauch said critical infrastructure facilities could be power plants, feed lot or transit centers.
Sen. JP Pomnichowski, D-Bozeman, asked if that would include reservoirs as well and prevent people from flying drones over such facilities.
She said the fact there was not clearer definitions gave her “pause.”
Hinebauch said the news media uses drones and flies over private properties.
“The news media does not strike me as being the people I want taking pictures of what I have,” he said.