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Legislation Would Ban Drones Over School Buildings

Drones may be prohibited over school buildings under legislation proposed recently in the state Assembly.

Assemblywoman Pat Fahy, D-Albany, recently introduced legislation (A.8176) to prohibit the use of unmanned aircraft over school grounds or critical infrastructure. Exceptions would be made if the drone is operated by a government official or law enforcement agency or if the drone operator gets written permission from school administrators.

Those found in violation could face a class B misdemeanor punishable by fines or up to 90 days in jail.

“Under current law, there is no restriction on flying a drone or other unmanned aircraft over school grounds,” Fahy wrote in her legislative justification. “This lack of regulation puts the safety and security of schoolchildren at risk. Drones can be equipped with surveillance technology that, in the hands of bad actors, could be used for nefarious purposes. In light of the tragic frequency of school shootings, we must ensure that bad actors cannot exploit drone technology to threaten the safety and security of New York schoolchildren”.

The New York State Public High School Athletic Association has banned drones over high school sporting events since 2017. That ban includes the area above and upon all spectator areas, fields of play, courts, arenas, stadiums, mats, gymnasiums, pools, practice facilities, parking areas or other property being utilized for the purpose of the interscholastic activity,.” Exceptions can be made for the news media, law enforcement, public safety agencies or others but only through a process that includes consent from the host venue and the executive director of the NYSPHSAA.

According to CBS6 in Albany, Bethlehem Central School District officials filed a complaint with the Federal Aviation Administration over drone flights by an area real estate company over two of the district’s school buildings. The FAA is unlikely to take action because there was no state law against the flight and the flight was allowed under FAA guidelines. School district officials, according to the television station report, plan to take students inside if a drone is spotted nearby.

“Ensuring that unauthorized individuals cannot fly drones above schools is a common-sense measure to protect children’s safety,” Fahy wrote.

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