Governor signs bill regulating drone use on Mackinac Island

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Wayne Schmidt last week joined Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in her Capitol office as she signed into law his legislation that would allow Mackinac Island to regulate the use of certain drones.

“The popularity and capabilities of drones have greatly increased over the last few years and I think there are some reasonable guidelines that need to be put in place,” said Schmidt, R-Traverse City. “Mackinac Island is a unique tourist destination with a very specific model that is carefully followed. Drones have been known to spook the horses, which can cause unnecessary stress and injuries to the animals, but they can also endanger guests and be a threat to public safety.”

Senate Bill 129, now Public Act 32 of 2019, amends the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Act to allow Mackinac Island to enact and enforce an ordinance to prohibit certain drone use on the island.

The idea of limiting drone use on the island was originally recommended by the state’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Task Force in 2017. The report made several recommendations, including the request for a state law prohibiting drones from interfering around facilities like prisons, bridges and other tourist areas. The report specifically cited Mackinac Island as an area that should be protected because instances of drones startling horses has created a valid safety concern.

Whitmer originally signed the bill on June 25 and it formally took effect upon signing.

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Photo caption: State Sen. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, stands with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer after she signed Senate Bill 129 into law during last week’s bill-signing ceremony.