A bill identifying specific legal uses for unmanned drones stalled in a Senate committee Tuesday as members said they were concerned about “unintended consequences.”
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, would legalize 18 specific commercial uses for drones, including scholarly research, mapping purposes, military operations, real estate marketing, and oil pipeline safety or rig protection.
“We are unable to stop technology. We should responsibly regulate it,” Richter told members of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.
The bill was met with opposition from some lawmakers concerned that the process of regulating drones was being rushed. State Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, led that charge, saying the issue had not been properly vetted and it could have negative side effects.
“We are in week four or five of session and we are just starting to talk about this again,” Brandes said. “I’m not here to ban recreational activities. I’m not here to have an 18-year-old accidentally doing something he is civilly liable for.”
He wants to have a “panel discussion” with companies like Google and Amazon, and individuals who recreationally use drones.
Brandes made a motion to temporarily postpone the bill, which means it will again have to be heard by the same committee before it can move forward. With less than one month left in legislative session, the move generally means legislation is dead, State Sen. Greg Evers, the Baker Republican who chairs the committee, promised to hear it next week.
“I just don’t think we are where we need to be right now,” he said.
Even if the bill were to pass next week, it would have two remaining committee stops before reaching a the full Senate. It means, though still alive, the bill has an uphill climb for passage this session.
Richter said during the meeting he was caught off guard by the motion to postpone. After it was clear his bill was not going to pass, he made a veiled threat toward one of Brandes’ top priorities: passing laws to develop driverless car technology in Florida..
“We will see how it goes with the driverless cars down the road,” Richter said after Brandes made the motion.
The discussion on how the state should react to drones comes as their usage is expected to spike in the coming years.
“Drone shipments will increase from 250,000 units in 2014 to nearly a million in 2018,” according to a staff analysis of the bill.
Brandes says that explosion is the reason the state should take more thorough approach to regulation.
“We are way out over our skis trying to ban things,” he said. “We should be doing a lot of research into this and not hearing a bill midway through session.”
Original article here.