While the Senate shot down SB 330, they passed SB356. I encourage you to read them. The following is the letter I sent to my elected representative. While it is specific to this situation, it can be used as a template to establish a positive dialogue on drones in other governments. I apologize for not getting this post up sooner!
My name is Devin Denman. I am a former Marine, Iraq War veteran, Louisiana native and a UAS operator.
It has been brought to my attention that legislation concerning unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), more commonly known as “drones”, has passed the Louisiana Senate and is on its way to the House.
Senate Bill 356 is the specific bill I am referring to. While I support outlawing the criminal use of UAS and protecting people’s privacy, I implore you to vote against Bill 356 in favor for one with more articulate language. I shall explain.
Given the current language, the everyday positive use of UAS can be criminalized. Operators with clean records can suddenly become criminal due to technicality of unintentionally filming something so commonplace as a powerline. As the state spends time and resources prosecuting these people, the real bad guys can slip through the cracks.
Additionally, there is an economic impact to consider. The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) forecasts a lucrative economic impact in their report titled The Economic Impact of Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration in the United States. Their findings show that in the first three years of UAS integration more than 70,000 jobs will be created in the United States with an economic contribution of more than $13.6 billion. This benefit will grow through 2025 with more than 100,000 jobs created and an economic impact of $82 billion.
But there is more to contemplate.
Currently, Hollywood films more movies in Louisiana than they do anywhere else, including California itself! In fact, the newest installation of the “Terminator” franchise is being filmed in New Orleans and “The Best of Me” is being filmed in Pearl River. Using a broad language to outlaw UAS in Louisiana can deter filming in Louisiana. Why is this? This is because a lot of studios use small UAS to carry cameras for their aerial shots. If they accidentally filmed something so ubiquitous as a powerline or water tower then who is to say that they haven’t filmed “critical infrastructure” and need to be imprisoned? What would a single instance of that do to the film industry in Louisiana?
Furthermore, the use of small UAS is a boon to industries like professional photography, oil and gas, commercial fishing, real estate, event security and much more!
The proposed law calls for cruel and unusual punishments. UAS will be very unlikely to develop jobs and revenue in the state of Louisiana if UAS operators are worried of being prosecuted for doing their jobs. Powerlines and gas pipelines are long and linear in nature and nearly impossible to not fly over. Why is it a big deal for a small, carbon fiber UAS to fly over such infrastructure when large, manned aircraft made of metal do so every day?
Louisiana stands to be a leader in the unmanned aircraft sector and take a huge slice of the UAS pie. The University of Louisiana at Monroe offers a program specializing in UAS. With NASA locations like Michoud and Stennis reinforcing our technology corridor the sky is literally the limit!
If Senate Bill 356 is passed in its current form then Louisiana stands to throw all these opportunities away. Hollywood will shoot movies somewhere else, good taxpayers will be needlessly imprisoned and our economy will lag behind those states that chose to embrace the future rather than vanquish it.
I implore you to revise Senate Bill 356 to a stricter language that makes room for UAS economy and jobs or strike it down altogether so that time may be taken to educate us on this important issue.
Thank you for your time and consideration.