LANSING, Mich. — The state Senate on Thursday approved legislation sponsored by Sen. Wayne Schmidt that would allow the regulation of drones on Mackinac Island.
“This was something that was suggested to us by the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Task Force,” said Schmidt, R-Traverse City. “Members of the task force spent a great deal of time and effort studying the issue from all aspects and limiting the use of drones on Mackinac Island was one thing that gained traction.”
The task force itself was created by legislation that received final approval from the governor late last year. The task force’s primary purpose was to develop a statewide policy regarding the operation and regulation of drones.
The report made several recommendations, including the request for a state law addressing drones interfering with facilities like prisons, bridges and other tourist areas. The report specifically cites Mackinac Island as an area that should be protected because instances of drones startling horses has created a safety concern.
“Mackinac Island is a top tourist destination that draws large amounts of people,” Schmidt said. “One of the island’s top features is the prohibition of automobiles. Visitors must travel by horse, carriage, or on a bicycle. These horses typically do well around crowds of people, but anyone can see that a frightened horse mixed with a crowd of people is bad news. I think there is a valid safety concern there.”
Senate Bill 715 would codify the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Task Force’s recommendation to allow Mackinac Island to regulate drones into state statute.
“Aircraft, including drones, falls under the jurisdiction of the Federal Aviation Authority, so we had to be careful to make sure this bill was drafted very narrowly to address the safety issue at hand,” Schmidt said. “The popularity of drones has drastically increased in recent years and continues to increase as advancements in their capabilities continue. With more and more people pursuing the hobby, we need to make sure we get out in front of the issue and make sure the use of these aircraft doesn’t create a safety concern for others.”
SB 715 received bipartisan approval in the Senate and will now move to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Editor’s note: Audio of Schmidt discussing the Senate passage of his drone legislation is available here or on his website. Click “Audio” under the “Media Center” tab.