Don’t drink and drone: New Jersey lawmakers seek crackdown on tipsy pilots

New Jersey legislators are proposing fines and jail terms for those operating a drone while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The measures form part of a bill cracking down on sex offenders.

Assembly bill 5205 wouldn’t completely outlaw flying a drone while drinking. Operators who keep their blood alcohol concentration levels below 0.08 percent would not be in violation. Anyone caught with drugs in their system while flying a drone would be breaking the law, however.

Operating a drone while under the influence or taking drugs would result in a 6 month prison sentence or a fine of up to $1,000, or both. Intentionally flying a drone near prisons or other correctional facilities, or interfering with first responders, is considered more severe and would be punishable by a jail term of 18 months, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.

The bill also considers it an disorderly offense when piloting a drone to interfere with first responders, to help with hunting (“taking of wildlife”), or to violate a restraining order.

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The regulations on operating drones are part of a broader bill that would also require lifetime parole supervision for convicted sex offenders and pedophiles.

The bill was introduced on November 30 by two Democrats, Assemblywoman Annette Quijano and Assemblyman Vincent Mazzeo, supported by Republican Assemblyman Jon Bramnick. If Governor Chris Christie signs the bill before his term ends in January 2018, it would be the first law to regulate drones in New Jersey.

Law enforcement agencies across the US have been seeking heavier regulations for the use of drones. Police departments want to be able to identify and track all unmanned air traffic, saying it’s necessary to prevent collisions with aircraft which provide vital public services, such as air-ambulance helicopters.

In August, the Pentagon said that 130 military bases across the US were empowered to shoot down private and commercial drones that could endanger aviation safety or pose other threats.

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