The General Assembly has been busy these last few months contemplating various bills and laws. Among these newbies are a few new and revised laws on drone use in NC. Before you panic, most of these laws/revisions are similar with what is already in place and shouldn't cause too much issue and since knowledge is power, here is my summary of the changes:
Go Ahead and Attach Your Infrared Camera Because its Legal Now (maybe):
As you may recall, G.S. §15A-300.1(d) restricted the use of infrared or thermal imaging technology on drones and limited such use to certain scientific purposes. This was an obvious way to address some privacy and Fourth Amendment concerns with law enforcement's use of special imaging technology not widely available to the public. However, HB 337 has repealed this section in its entirety, theoretically allowing any use of infrared or thermal imaging technology on drones so long as all the other NC and FAA Drone rules are followed.
Just in Time for Hurricane Irma, Emergency Management Use of Drones is Given the Okay:
A new section has been ratified and added to G.S. §15A-300.1 that expressly permits Emergency Management services to use drones for activities such as: search and rescue, incident command, area reconnaissance, preliminary damage assessment, hazard risk management, and floodplain mapping. Emergency Management personnel still have to abide by the other restrictions in G.S. §15A-300.1 but it looks like dude from Hurricane Matthew was on to something special.
NC Operator Rules = FAA operator Rules:
G.S. §63-96 has been revised to make NC's operator rules the same as the FAA operator rules. This applies to commercial drone operators using drones within NC. This will make the requirements to take the NC Drone Pilot Test the same as the requirements to take the FAA Part 107 License Test. FYI- both are required for commercial drone use in NC.
Don't Fly Near NC Jails/Prisons:
Not really sure why you would, but the new G.S. §15A-300.3 prohibits flying your drone within a horizontal distance of 500 feet and a vertical distance of 250 feet from any local "confinement facility" a/k/a jails and prisons. Like with any good law, there are exceptions, including for public utilities trying to do legit work on the premises. This new law also provides for strict criminal penalties and fines if this law is violated. The "No Drones Near Prison" rule will go into effect December 1. 2017.
Want to learn more? Join our Drone Meetup: Droning on about Drones in RTP! Its FREE and typically includes craft beer and sweet demos.