The House has passed legislation giving the state, through the Rhode Island Airport Corporation, the exclusive legal authority to regulate the use of drones in Rhode Island.
Sponsored by Rep. Stephen R. Ucci and cosponsored by Rep. Arthur Corvese, the goal of the bill is to ensure a single, statewide set of rules for the use of unmanned aerial vehicles and objects, rather than a patchwork of local ordinances.
“Drones are already here in Rhode Island and our laws need to reflect their presence. The Airport Corporation should be empowered to make sure that they are used safely so they don’t interfere with other air traffic, and to develop rules so that they aren’t used to violate Rhode Islanders’ privacy. As we know, they’re already being used by law enforcement agencies and photographers, and they could soon be widely employed for things like delivery. We should make sure the rules about their use in Rhode Island are clear and uniform throughout the state,” said Representative Ucci (D-Dist. 42, Johnston, Cranston).
The legislation (2016-H 7511A) was recommended by a House study commission that met this year to discuss how the state should regulate unmanned aerial vehicles. Representatives Ucci and Corvese served on the commission, and sponsored the bill last year that established it.
Both legislators said the state should move swiftly to adopt regulations governing the use of drones, because they are already in use, can be bought at local stores by anyone and their use will likely proliferate quickly. Being an early adopter of well-defined drone regulations could have additional economic benefits as well, such as attracting the attention of businesses interested in developing technology here, or piloting programs such as delivery services.
“There may be all kinds of things that drones could be doing for people in the near future, quickly and efficiently. But the bottom line right now is that there needs to be a clear set of rules that users understand, and that protect the privacy of our citizens. The use of drones is only going to expand, so we should make sure that they are being used safely and responsibly,” said Representative Corvese (D-Dist. 55, North Providence).
The legislation passed the House yesterday and will now go to the Senate. Other cosponsors include Rep. Thomas Winfield (D-Dist. 53, Smithfield, Glocester), Rep. Joseph J. Solomon Jr. (D-Dist. 22, Warwick) and Rep. Katherine S. Kazarian (D-Dist. 63, East Providence).