N.H. Lawmakers Seek Drone Curbs

Concord — To keep intact New Hampshire residents’ expectations of privacy, lawmakers propose putting up a privacy bubble against surveillance drones.

Leading the charge is Weare Republican Rep. Neal Kurk, who predicts that drones will soon become both widespread and intrusive. Congress has ordered the Federal Aviation Administration to integrate drones into the national airspace by 2015.

Drones are unmanned aerial vehicles expected to create 70,000 jobs in the United States, including nearly 440 in New Hampshire, between 2015 and 2017, according to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, a trade group that advocates for their expanded use.

New Hampshire is among 34 states that proposed drone privacy bills this year. Its bill prohibits drones from taking pictures over private property without the owner’s permission. A committee has approved it 16-2 and the House could take it up as early as today.

Kurk says the bill would put into law the privacy expectations New Hampshire residents already have.

“The purpose of this is to give most of us confidence that our traditional expectation of privacy is not violated,” he said. “I don’t expect people to fly over my house and take pictures of me sunbathing.”

Kurk called the bill “very limited,” in that it applies only to drones and not to satellites or helicopters.

“Google Earth would not be affected,” said Kurk, whose bill would also bar government and private entities in New Hampshire from operating a drone equipped with a weapon.

Apple sells a drone for just under $300 that is controlled by an iPad or an iPhone and is capable of taking video and photographs. It measures roughly 11 inches by 30 inches.