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As Use Increases, Kentucky Lawmakers Push To Tighten Drone Regulations

Somerset Police Department

Nationally, drones are increasing in popularity and some Kentucky legislators want stricter regulations on how the devices are used.

A proposed bill, mirroring federal guidelines, would insert into Kentucky law the approved uses for drones in the commonwealth and clarify how the unmanned aircraft can conduct surveillance.

Representative Diane St. Onge is the bill’s sponsor. She said her proposal differs from federal guidelines by specifying which agencies can use drones.

“We needed something out there as a state, as a commonwealth, to have a baseline for what we would allow in the state,” St. Onge said. “This allows for legitimate purposes of businesses and law enforcement to be able to use drones.”

That’s what the city of Louisville would like to do. Last week, the city announced it had applied for FAA approval to use automated drones to respond to gunshots.

And while many industries push for fewer regulations, drone pilot Robert Patterson said he’s in favor of stricter rules. Patterson is the owner of aerial photography businessLouisville Above, and said the law could help keep Kentuckians safe and maintain privacy.

“We would applaud those efforts to acknowledge that with any technology, there comes new responsibilities and a need to govern those appropriately,” Patterson said. “Certainly those of us that are using them commercially have a vested interested in seeing that this technology is not misused.”

In August, Gov. Matt Bevin blasted local media outlets on Twitter for flying a drone over his Anchorage home, alleging the drone was filming his children. WDRB responded, saying the station did not film the governor’s family and was only documenting the property inspection taking place at the governor’s home.

Louisville’s fire department has also tried to secure a drone piloting license for years, and recently took classes with Patterson to learn how to fly them.

Louisville Fire spokesman Salvador Melendez said a drone would help firefighters in their work, but the department can’t move forward without knowing how drones will be regulated in Kentucky.

“We are not planning on sending drones inside a burning structure. It’s not to that point yet,” Melendez said. “We don’t want to put the cart before the horse and get all these things done when we don’t know how we’re going to be — whether sanctioned or regulated.”

Legislators have attempted to pass drone regulations for three years. St. Onge’s bill passed the House last month and is currently being reviewed by the Senate Judiciary committee.

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