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Committee proposes rules for drone use in NC

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Ted Lindsley is the CEO of Olaeris, a drone manufacturer that wants to move its headquarters to North Carolina. Ted Lindsley is the CEO of Olaeris, a drone manufacturer that wants to move its headquarters to North Carolina.
RALEIGH, N.C. -

The state is one step closer to allowing the use and manufacturing of drones in North Carolina after a legislative committee approved a set of regulations that it hopes will calm people's fears about the use of drones while allowing the industry to flourish.

The federal government essentially bars their commercial use right now, but that's likely to change soon. Unmanned aircraft systems are being tested across the country, including in North Carolina.

The House committee finalized Wednesday its recommendations to the full General Assembly on the emerging use of drones.

  • Click Here to read the committee's draft of recommendations

The committee wants to make it unlawful for anyone to conduct surveillance of a person or the person's house using the aircraft without the person's consent. That includes making it illegal for the government to conduct surveillance without proper authorization.

"An [Unmanned Aircraft System] is just another tool in their toolbox to add to what they are currently doing, and they will have to get a warrant to do that as well," said Rep. John Torbett (R-Gaston).

The CEO of drone manufacturer Olaeris said his company has met with ACLU officials at the state and national level to come up with guidelines for drone use. Olaeris and the ACLU want lawmakers to require police to obtain warrants to use drones for surveillance of an individual and to not restrict drones from responding to emergencies.

"There's still a long way to go with this process and probably more work to be done to make sure individual uses for filmmaking for artistic and journalistic purposes are balanced with people's privacy interests," said Sarah Preston with the ACLU.

The American Civil Liberties Union said a poll it commissioned showed 72 percent of North Carolina voters support requiring law enforcement to get a warrant to use a drone on private individuals.

Drones could mean thousands of jobs and billions pumped into the economy if the state becomes the industry leader. Olaeris CEO Ted Lindsley wants to relocate to North Carolina and said the state will need to move quickly to stay ahead in the emerging industry.

"We just have to move quickly because other states are going to begin catching up," said Olaeris CEO Ted Lindsley. "By the end of the summer -- game over. California will take the lead if we don't do it in North Carolina."

In addition to protection to privacy, House members also proposed making it illegal to put a weapon on a drone or use it for hunting and fishing.

The bill has been sent to another committee, which will probably make more changes before it is sent to the full General Assembly for a vote.

Copyright 2014 WNCN. All rights reserved.

Steve Sbraccia

Steve is an award-winning reporter for WNCN and former assistant professor. A seasoned professional, Steve is proud to call the Triangle home since 2005 after over two decades in Boston, Mass.  More>>

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