The Iowa House is considering a bill that would restrict drone use for aerial surveillance of livestock facilities. If the bill passes, it could hurt businesses that use drones to do things like survey land, advertise agricultural real estate, and assess storm damage, among other things.
Without the permission of the landowners, the bill would make it illegal for “remotely piloted aircraft” to fly within 400 feet of a homestead or an area where agricultural animals are kept. The penalties for violators would range from a simple misdemeanor to a serious misdemeanor.
One owner of a company expressed concern over “the unintended consequences it could have on other areas of the ag industry.” Other business owners are also worried about the bill's potential unintended consequences.
On the other hand, those in favor of the bill maintain that it must be passed in order to address the valid concerns raised about aerial surveillance.
During the past few years, Republican legislators have made multiple attempts to restrict the ability of animal rights organizations to document unfavorable working conditions in livestock facilities.
Exemptions would be made available under this bill for people who work for the government or for public utilities, who monitor the weather, or who fly their drones higher than 400 feet within restricted airspace.
Even though there are exemptions, some people who fly drones are still worried that they might be breaking the law, especially if they fly their aircraft in areas with a lot of people.
Chandler Steffy, who uses drones to evaluate storm damage, expressed concern that the legislation could pose a problem in more densely populated areas, where he may have to seek permission from multiple landowners.
However, some lawmakers argue that it is a necessary measure to protect privacy, with one representative reportedly stating, “I do have a problem with somebody thinking they have a right to fly over my place and take pictures.”
The proposed legislation was recommended by a subcommittee, and it will need approval from a full committee to be considered. A similar bill in the Iowa Senate was also recommended by a subcommittee.
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