The Michigan Senate today approved a pair of bills proposed by state Rep. Michele Hoitenga as part of a legislative package protecting state interests through the establishment of state laws for drones.
House Bill 5494 declares drone use as an extension of the person in instances of criminal activity. Illegal activity carried out with the use of a drone, such as dropping contraband, weapons, cell phones or other items onto correctional facility property for inmates, would be treated the same as an individual breaking the law without unmanned aircraft as an aid.
HB 5496 aims to expand and centralize available information on a growing industry, tasking the existing Michigan Aeronautics Commission with providing education to various departments, the public, law enforcement and other entities.
“Our laws must adapt with and reflect technological advancements and that’s what these bills achieve,” said Hoitenga, of Manton, who chairs the House Communications and Technology Committee. “There are Federal Aviation Administration guidelines that touch on drone use, but there is very little in law at the state level.”
In April 2017, a 27-member Unmanned Aircraft Systems Task Force appointed by the governor began work to develop statewide recommendations on the operation, use and regulation of drones in Michigan. The drafted legislation that has been spearheaded by Rep. Hoitenga takes into account the recommendations of the task force, which featured a multitude of stakeholders and experts within the field.
“It has been a long process with a lot of good work done and it’s good to see these bills one step from law,” Hoitenga said. “Unmanned aircraft systems have positive uses both commercially and industrially and there is a growing hobbyist element with them as well. It was a point of emphasis not to infringe on that use and growth while also protecting state interests and public safety.”
The bills previously were advanced in overwhelming, bipartisan fashion by the Michigan House in March and now move to the governor for review.