Wisconsin drone advocacy group voices support for bill updating drone laws

The drone industry is growing nationwide. In fact, in 2016, the Federal Aviation Administration estimated 7 million drones will occupy U.S. airspace by 2020.

With increasing numbers of drones in the air, Wisconsin lawmakers are looking to update state drone laws.

A bill authored by Rep. Michael Schraa, R-Oshkosh, would prevent local governments from creating their own restrictions for drones.

“Maybe your neighborhood doesn’t want drone usage around a park. I would think that it would be almost impossible if every municipality had their own ordinances to be able to navigate through that,” Schraa said.

He said the bill is designed to protect both drone operators and privacy rights. Members of the UAS Advocacy Support Network testified in favor of AB 855 at a public hearing Thursday.

“It prevents commercial responsible safe ethical drone users from having to learn a hodgepodge of local municipality regulation wherever they cross a border,” said the group’s president, Chris Johnson.

Johnson also teaches a class at University of Wisconsin-Madison aimed at helping students learn about regulations for drones and helping them earn Part 107 FAA licenses to fly drones for commercial purposes.

Schraa’s bill would also prohibit drone operators from interfering with police officers, firefighters and other emergency services. It would also prevent sex offenders from getting around the restrictions placed on them, and prohibit people from using drones to stalk or harass someone or violate restraining orders.

DJI Technology, the company that makes some of the most popular drones, has lobbied in support of the measure. The city of Milwaukee said it would support the bill on the condition that it is amended to allow local municipalities to impose additional regulations and restrictions on drone use.

At Thursday’s public hearing, Schraa said he would amend the bill to protect the interests of all stakeholders.