Committee passes bill to prohibit use of drones over certain facilities in PA


HARRISBURG – The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved a measure that would penalize unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) operators for flying their aircraft over certain facilities in Pennsylvania, according to bill sponsor Senator David G. Argall (R-Schuylkill/Berks).

Senate Bill 1323, which was amended to include provisions making it a felony to drop illegal contraband over federal, state and county prisons, would place penalties on UAV operators who fly drones over critical facilities without the property owner’s consent.

“As this technology becomes more readily available at a price point most consumers can afford, we need to make sure that no one is using these machines in a way that would jeopardize the life and safety of Pennsylvanians,” Argall said. “This commonsense approach mirrors efforts in other states in order to safeguard citizens.”

The legislation defines critical facilities as corrections facilities, power generation facilities, public safety or emergency operations facilities, military installations, hospitals, government-owned property, airports and heliports, refineries, chemical plants and nuclear power plants. The committee added natural gas facilities, oil or gas drilling and production facilities, as well as natural gas storage facilities.

Drone operators caught flying their aircraft over these facilities for the first time would be subject to a second degree misdemeanor charge and a fine up to $5,000. Each subsequent offense would subject the operator to a first degree misdemeanor charge and a fine up to $10,000.

During a Senate Majority Policy Committee public hearing earlier this year, the Department of Corrections pointed to examples in other states where UAV operators dropped illegal contraband over prison yards.

The legislation was the result of testimony presented in March on the issue. In addition to the Department of Corrections, other testifiers included the National Conference of State Legislatures, Joint State Government Commission, Pennsylvania Chemical Industry Council, Pennsylvania State Police, Department of Transportation and the Electronic Privacy Information Center.