3D Robotics

New Hampshire considering aerial photography ban


FromAGBeat (via Hacker News)

New Hampshire bill proposes aerial photography ban

Neal Kurk (R), member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives since 1986 has recently sponsored HB 619-FN to make aerial photography illegal in their state, which many are considering a look into the future. States are currently struggling with how to deal with advances in drone technology, particularly mini-drones, fueled by fears not only that the federal government is using drones on U.S. soil, but are using them abroad not only to take out terrorists, but suspected terrorists, even if American.

Much media attention has been showered on the topic, bringing light to the full array of uses, not just the CIA’s implementation of the technologies. According to Fox News, the Federal Aviation Administration has already granted 327 licenses, and it projects as many as 10,000 licensed systems by 2017.

New Hampshire’s proposed aerial photography ban states the following:

"A person is guilty of a class A misdemeanor if such person knowingly creates or assists in creating an image of the exterior of any residential dwelling in this state where such image is created by or with the assistance of a satellite, drone, or any device that is not supported by the ground. This prohibition shall not apply where the image does not reveal forms identifiable as human beings or man-made objects. In this paragraph, “dwelling” means any building, structure, or portion thereof which is occupied as, or designed or intended for occupancy as, a residence by one or more individuals."

Potential problems with this bill

Although the bill seeks to protect residents from being spied on or documented, it very clearly excludes government officials who may use drones for official business. Most protests against drones are not against hobbyists, Google Maps satellites, or aerial photographers, rather against the government’s use of the devices.

The aerial photography ban is unclear as to the very specific non-threatening uses of aerial devices such as aerial real estate photography for listings, or if a homeowner is photographing their own home, and while it states that “This prohibition shall not apply where the image does not reveal forms identifiable as human beings or man-made objects,” possibly implying that if no human is in any photo or video taken, it is acceptable.

Additionally, it is unclear the implications of this bill on existing Google maps or existing images that have been taken via aerial device, and videography does not seem to be clearly addressed in the bill.

Fines for violations of a bill that could spread to other states

Rep. Kurk proposes a fine for violating the aerial photography ban, costing $62.71 per case in fiscal year 2014, rising to $64.40 per case thereafter, with an estimated $10,000 burden on taxpayers should someone appeal, and of course the $35,000 per year prison cost per person that fails to pay and is arrested.

Real estate photographer Larry Lohrman said, “Based on the public discussion that I’ve seen on this subject, I’m going to go out on a limb and make a wild guess and predict that this is not going to be an isolated incident. My guess is that other states will be doing this too. Particularly since so many cities are resisting use of UAVs by law enforcement.”


The full bill is here.

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  • Would taking a picture from a boat be illegal. Being on water, you would not be supported by the ground. For that matter, being in a car could also be illegal since you're supported by the car. Unless you think that the car is supported by the ground. But then, the air is supported by the ground as well. I can see lots of problems with the wording of this law.
  • I don't believe this is constitutional. We had a similar attempt in California. It was driven by a case where a wealthy individual flew the entire Ca. coast with a helicopter equipped with high res cameras and GPS to capture position. The library of photos has become a great archive of the coast. Coastal property owners, at least some large fraction, protested and there was a case that was tested either in the state's supreme court or the fed. court. The library stands in place today. I believe this violates freedom of the press at a minimum.  Check out : http://www.californiacoastline.org/cgi-bin/image.cgi?image=20100943...

    This was a big issue and lots of money was tossed at the legal battle from those opposed (Barbara Strisand donated a few $million to block it, she has a little home near Santa Barbara.)

  • If this bill actually passes (which I highly doubt), I'd would almost certainly be challenged in court and struck down immediately. #1 it is very likely preempted by federal law. If not, #2 it is almost certainly unconstitutional. Photography is a constitutionally protected form of speech under the first amendment. You cannot simply enact a blanket ban on an entire category of speech. The law has to be narrowly tailored to meet a compelling government interest by the least restrictive means, which this bill most certainly does not do. The courts have consistently ruled people have no privacy interest outside in public view, and the courts have also ruled you have a right to photograph buildings and people visible from public spaces. There is simply no way this law would hold up to a constitutional challenge. It's way too broad.

  • The most stupid part is that there are already laws against invasion of privacy.  Just what is this idiot trying to do except to hurt honest people and add a line item to the politician's resume?

  • The gov't wants to ban drones for the same reason they don't want you taking pictures of police officers "doing their job". If they were never doing anything wrong and never infringing on anyone's rights they'd welcome the photographic documentation.

    That is clearly not the case. They want total control of all video and audio taken of law-enforcement and other gov't thugs. They want all the guns and technology - and they want you to have nothing.

  • "Although the bill seeks to protect residents from being spied on or documented, it very clearly excludes government officials who may use drones for official business."


    Gee how convenient.... and answer me this.... in the event a young child, hiker, whomever was lost out in the wilderness, possibly injured... are volunteer efforts going to be breaking the law by sending their drone up over national or state forest and helping assist officials in locating the missing child?

    The politicians that come up with some of these knee jerk reactions are absolutely pathetic in their decision making processes.

  • This is such crap!  What about all the law enforcement agencies that use manned planes and helicopters all the time, no warrant necessary according to previous Supreme court decisions.... so on what justification are unmanned aerial vehicles aka 'drones' a clear and present danger to the American public's privacy?  Either aerial photography is public view and fair game or it's not...... whether or not a human being is physically in the air piloting the thing has very little to do with it.

  • The FAA needs to step in and say "thank you very much, but no thanks. STFU and sit down. We got it covered. The air is OUR DOMAIN". 

    This is akin to the FCC allowing states to choose their own tv/radio frequencies. 

  • Moderator

    Just a thought

    If the atmosphere is supporting my aircraft and New Hampshire is supporting the atmosphere then everything is OK? or is that just too logical.

    Or what happens if I fly from an adjacent State and overfly a bit of NH, am I now a federal criminal by taking pictures in NH. 

    OR even worse what if I flew from Canada, now its FBI and DHLS.  (only kidding, its not going to happen)

    Is this all a bit crazy anyway as the FAA allegedly controls the airspace anyway and this has to trump NH crazy rules.

  • Moderator

    I dont have the full text but I understood that "land of the free" gave the freedom to live and enjoy life in the way that you want without unjust restrictions. it looks like that is going out the window.

    regarding Europe, at least they allow drones and are embracing the technology just the same as Canada. Maybe USA should look outside its borders for inspiration or they are going to lose the race for supremecy in drones

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