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The New Hampshire “Images from the Air” Legislation

Posted By John Palatiello, Friday, March 8, 2013
Updated: Thursday, March 7, 2013

There’s an old expression that "Some people make things happen, some watch things happen, while others wonder what has happened”.

What distinguishes MAPPS for many other organizations is we make things happen.

Current legislation in the New Hampshire state legislature is a case in point. State Representative Neal Kurk (R-Weare) pre-filed a bill in December, 2012 "prohibiting images of a person’s residence to be taken from the air”.

 

As it turns out, that was not text from the bill, but simply a description used with the placeholder before the legislature went into session.

 

A number of blogs, web sites, and publications began posting stories about the bill. None included quotes from State Rep. Kurk or otherwise indicated the authors bothered to contact the lawmaker to inquire about the motivation or intent of the bill.

 

MAPPS did contact him and pointed out the problems a bill "prohibiting images of a person’s residence to be taken from the air” would pose for the aerial survey community, the background on the law, and the many applications of aerial imagery of residences provide to the health, welfare and safety of the good people of New Hampshire. Rep. Kurk immediately replied by email, indicated the bill had not yet been written, and that the issues raised by MAPPS would be addressed.

 

When the bill was introduced, HB619, I called Rep. Kurk to discuss continuing MAPPS concerns on the impact on private sector airborne surveys. We had a mutually beneficial 40-minute conversation. I provided information about which he was unaware, and he informed me of the specific concerns he was attempting to address – specifically invasive privacy intrusions and unwarranted governmental and law enforcement searches, particularly using a unmanned aerial vehicle or "drone”. He thanked me for my interest, indicated he was writing a substitute for his own bill, said the information I provided will useful in drafting the substitute, and that he was not interested in adversely affecting the legitimate business activities of firms in the geospatial profession.

 

His issue, and the specific language of the bill, will be to prohibit the use of drones (UAVs) by law enforcement for surveillance or to fire a weapon. With regard to surveillance, it will only apply to (1) the inside of a building and (2) imagery wherein individual persons are recognizable/identifiable. The bill will NOT affect imagery of the outside of any home or other structure. The prohibition above can be waived if the drone/imagery is by government, WITH a warrant by a court, or by a private firm with the consent of the affected/imaged person.

It does not go after normal aerial photography or satellite imagery.

We had quite a conversation on commercial imaging satellites, the origin and content of the FAA bill passed by Congress in 2012 and currently being implemented by FAA (regarding certification of UAVs), and Federal vs state law on airspace, remote sensing satellites, and related issues.

 

That substitute has been filed. The substitute has been narrowed to only address drones. It no longer would affect manned helicopter or fixed wing aircraft platforms, and since it is limited to airspace over New Hampshire NOT subject to Federal regulation, it would not affect commercial remote sensing satellites.

However, the substitute still limits and prohibits UAV data acquisition. It defines government to include a contractor and it does assign criminal penalties. And while it attempts to prevent weapons on-board drones, I fear he might have defined LIDAR as a laser-type weapon! The good news is we have an open dialogue with Rep. Kurk and we can continue to work through these remaining issues.

 

The point is, contacting legislators, even those in states other than your own, is effective. Rather than watching things happen, or wondering what happened, MAPPS makes things happen. If a bill is passed into law in New Hampshire, it will be very different than its original intent because MAPPS got involved. The authors of blogs, web sites, and publications who wrote about the bill without contacting its sponsor did the public and its readers a disservice.

 

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