Iowa Lawmakers Seek to Limit Drone Flights Over Homes and Farms
New legislation in the Iowa legislature aims to criminalize drone flights in certain situations. House File 572 proposes charging individuals with a simple misdemeanor for flying a drone over someone's farm or home outside city limits. If a surveillance device, such as a camera, is attached to the drone, the charges become more severe. Furthermore, the bill would enable judges to ban individuals from flying drones for two years if they are sued for harassment due to flying over someone's property.
Rep. Derek Wulf (R-Black Hawk County) explained that the bill's purpose is to safeguard farmers' privacy.
He stated, “I believe this bill is a step in the right direction to protect Iowa's farmers and ranchers as they work every day to protect the safety and security of their livestock and the operation they take pride in.”
Initially, the bill did not exempt structures within city limits, raising concerns for drone pilots like Bridger Hawkinson, owner of Hawkinson Aerial Photography in Dubuque. He feared the legislation would negatively impact his business.
“My biggest frustration is just having the state come in and figure out what they want to do with drone regulations,” Hawkinson said. “I don't think they should be having any say in it.”
While the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) oversees airspace, local lawmakers can restrict drone landing and takeoff locations. The proposed law includes various exceptions, such as obtaining permission from the property owner, operating as part of a state entity, or collecting climate or weather data.
The legislation also permits drone flights above 400 feet, which the FAA only allows under certain circumstances.
Hawkinson and other small businesses urged lawmakers to limit the restrictions to rural areas. He later helped establish Iowans for Drone Freedom to educate lawmakers about future bills.
“We created a compromise on how to suit both needs and how it would not affect the rights of the drone community,” Hawkinson reportedly said.
The bill garnered bipartisan support, passing the House with an 87 to 10 vote. However, it has yet to pass the Senate.
Photo courtesy of Hawkinson Aerial Photography.
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