This morning, the Oregon State Senate Judiciary Committee approved an amended version of HB 2710, sending it on the full Senate for an eventual vote. You can read the full text of the measure by following this link.
Overall, I think that FPV hobbyists and commercial operators – not to mention the broader RC flying community – should be pleased with this result. It's a long, long way from SB 71, which sent shockwaves through the state when it was first introduced – threatening to criminalize the mere possession of a radio controlled aircraft capable of taking pictures, and making the use of same a felony.
On top of that, virtually all of the elements of the amended version of SB 71 that threatened to infect HB 2710 for a brief time (and which appeared to be built upon the premise that “drones are mysterious, powerful and inherently evil”) have been eliminated.
The only such rule that survived is the one allowing a landowner to sue the operator of a drone that flies over their property at less than 400 feet. However, a common-sense clause has been added which requires the landowner to first contact the drone operator and ask them to stop – fair enough.
Now, what's to like about this bill:
First, it exempts model aircraft as defined by the 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act – which our friends over at the Academy of Model Aeronautics fought so hard to see included in that law. Well done, guys! You effort at the federal level is continuing to pay dividends as this battle moves to the states.
And, because model airplanes aren't drones, it sounds like all of the RC flying clubs who may have disapproving neighbors living around their fields are probably in the clear – because, like the rest of this bill, the 400-foot rule applies to drones, not model aircraft.
In addition, the approved amendment added many additional circumstances when law enforcement can deploy a drone. This is especially pleasing to me because the list of additional uses tracks very closely with testimony I gave at the most recent public hearing. Check out HB 2710-5, sections four through seven, and then compare that with our written testimony to the committee.
Did we specifically contribute to getting these changes in this bill? Read the two documents and decide for yourself, but none of these are ideas I heard anyone else discussing...
And, finally, the amended bill includes a clause that prevents local governments from establishing their own prohibitions against drones – as we have seen in other parts of the country. This is a welcome change because it will prevent a patchwork of regulations from popping up all over the state.
So, I'm going to put this one in the books as a “WIN” for our team. It was truly an honor to work alongside so many intelligent, dedicated people in the FPV/RC/AP community, to effectively oppose the worst elements of the first legislative foray into this brave new world.
No doubt there will be more, so we'll need to stay in touch, keep our eyes open and continue to build relationships with our political leaders and other potential players in this arena as we move ahead.