Legislator: Hard work being done will lead to results, clarity and information
The House Committee on Communications and Technology today advanced a pair of bills proposed by state Rep. Michele Hoitenga as part of a larger legislative package establishing needed state guidelines for drones.
“There’s a great desire for a centralized location for interested parties related to unmanned aircraft,” said Hoitenga, of Manton, who chairs the committee. “We need contacts or databases when people have drone-related questions or concerns. We need education and outreach so people know where it’s OK to use an unmanned aircraft in Michigan and where it isn’t. All of this is so new and we’re attempting to address all of these things with a great attention to detail since this technology has seen such a spike in popularity so quickly.”
A 2016 Federal Aviation Administration report estimated 2.5 million unmanned aircraft systems were being operated nationwide for a variety of purposes, including hobbyist and commercial. That number could grow to a projected 7 million by 2020.
Hoitenga’s bill, House Bill 5496, tasks the existing Michigan Aeronautics Commission with providing education and information to various departments, the public, law enforcement and other entities.
Hoitenga’s other bill, HB 5494, declares drone use as an extension of a person regarding criminal activity. Illegal activity carried out with the use of a drone would be treated the same as an individual breaking the law without unmanned aircraft as an aid.
“If you’re dropping contraband into a correctional facility with a drone, my proposal will deem it as if you’re taking something and handing it to an inmate or physically bringing it to the person themselves,” Hoitenga said. “We need to keep our correctional officers safe and when drones buzzing overhead can drop weapons to inmates for use against officers or other prisoners, firm deterrents need to be in place.”
House Bills 5494-98 advance to the House floor for further consideration.
PHOTO INFORMATION: State Rep. Michele Hoitenga, of Manton, provides testimony in support of House Bills 5494 and 5496 before the House Committee on Communications and Technology on Feb. 13. Hoitenga’s proposals are part of a bill package aiming to regulate unmanned aircraft at the state level. State Reps. Tom Barrett (left), of Potterville, and Roger Hauck (right) of Union Township have also drafted legislation within the plan.