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Schmidt introduces legislation to address taskforce recommendations

Senator Wayne Schmidt

Senator Wayne Schmidt

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Wayne Schmidt recently introduced legislation that would codify some of the Michigan’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Task Force’s recommendations into state statute.

The task force itself was created by legislation that received final approval from the governor earlier this year. The task force’s primary purpose was to develop a statewide policy regarding the operation and regulation of unmanned aircraft such as drones.

“The popularity of drones has surged in recent years,” said Schmidt, R-Traverse City. “As we’re seeing an increase in the use of drones, both commercial and recreational, it is important that we develop a consistent, statewide policy that ensures the safety of Michigan residents.”

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 cites Mackinac Island as an area that should be protected because instances of drones startling horses has created a valid safety concern.

Another example references three individuals using a drone to drop contraband over a mid-Michigan prison.

The task force does specifically note, however, that the Federal Aviation Administration has final authority when it comes to regulating airspace. Because of this, the report purposely avoids calling for a ban in those places, but rather a prohibition on drones interfering in those spaces.

“It is important to note that this is not an outright ban,” Schmidt said. “This legislation simply puts consistent guidelines in place and allows local governments to restrict the use of drones when public safety or an interruption in daily operations is at stake.”

Senate Bill 715 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Transportation.