PRI Committee Endorses Drones Bill

March 10, 2016

The legislature’s Program Review and Investigations (PRI) Committee today unanimously approved a bill to regulate weaponization of drones. The bill is an attempt to curb civilian and police use of unmanned aerial devices to carry guns, incendiary devices, tear gas or other weapons. This is the second attempt to pass a drones bill after a more comprehensive bill failed to become law in 2015.

Rep. Mary Mushinsky (D-Wallingford), Ranking Member of the PRI Committee, said the committee in their 2014 study anticipated the possibility a civilian might attempt to modify drones in a way that endangered their neighborhood, and sought to make such modifications illegal. The committee’s fear was realized when a Clinton resident modified his drone to carry a flamethrower and a firearm which he operated remotely. Under SB 148, such activities will be illegal.

The committee also limited police use of weapons on a drone. Program Review and Investigations allowed law enforcement agents only the use of computer software to control drones, and bomb squads are allowed to use drones with equipment to detect, detonate and dispose of explosives. Mushinsky said the committee wished to limit weaponization to both civilians and police because the aerial nature of drones increases risk to the community in case of an error.

Senate Bill 148 now moves to the Judiciary Committee. The rest of the PRI committee’s comprehensive 2015 bill is pending before the Public Safety Committee and includes procedures for use of drones by local and state officials, including the use of warrants and reports for gathering and disclosing information.

See the related article on CT News Junkie