December 06, 2017

New Jersey lawmakers propose crackdown on drunk drone operators

Legislation Drones
Drone iStock/Source

A drone flies overhead.

Although operating unmanned aircraft after knocking back a few drinks would seem inadvisable to many of us, New Jersey lawmakers are moving to officially ban intoxicated drone-flying in the Garden State.

A proposal that passed through an Assembly committee on Monday would make it a disorderly persons offense in New Jersey to fly a drone under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Those caught flying unmanned aircraft while high or with a blood alcohol content exceeding the legal limit would face up to six months in prison, a fine of  as much as $1,000 or both, the bill states.

The legislation is up for a full Senate vote on Thursday.

"Drones have become increasingly disruptive, causing near-misses with airplanes, interfering with firefighter operations and being used to smuggle drugs and other contraband into prisons," Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, D-Union, who co-sponsored the legislation, said in a statement. "This bill sets specific guidelines for how New Jersey's residents are able to utilize these devices to establish some order and help prevent these dangerous situations."

The Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates drone-flying, already bars operating drones while intoxicated.

The bill was first introduced in the Senate by sponsors Paul Sarlo, D-Bergen and Passaic, and the late Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic, in June. Another version of the bill was introduced in the Assembly last week.

The proposed crackdown on operating drones while intoxicated is part of a sweeping measure that, if enacted, would bar flying drones above or close to a correctional facility and using drones in a way that endangers people or property. It also bans using drones "to take or assist in the taking of wildlife."

Although the state Department of Environmental Protection banned drones in state parks in 2015, the proposed measure would be the first statewide law on drones, the Associated Press reported.