Jan 30, 2015 9:00 PM

NH1 Investigates: Legislation proposed to regulate NH drone use


CONCORD - The state of New Hampshire is reviewing proposed legislation that would specifically regulate the use of drones.

Currently, there are no laws in the state that do so - leaving little to no restriction on where they can be flown and what they can be used for.

A House bill proposed last year by the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee is now being reviewed by the Senate.

As presented, it would regulate the use of drones by individuals and government agencies. It also includes penalties for those who violate the law.

Right now, the FAA's future regulations of drones remain mostly unclear.

While there are specific rules regarding airspace, there are currently no qualifications required to be a drone pilot.

Those who have picked up the hobby continue to anxiously await further guidelines from the FAA expected later this year.

In New Hampshire, there are drone owners/users almost everywhere.

One of them is Chris Earle-Handley, a former aviation student who started his own production company that offers aerial footage using drones.

The new technology has amazed him.

"You can send it up, by itself - it will fly a flight plan, that you pre-program - and come back," Earle-Handley said.

Earle-Handley has taken video of many cities and businesses across the Granite State, including the city of Manchester and Hampton Beach. He says he is awaiting a clarification from the FAA on how he can use his drone for commercial purposes.

"It's kind of a gray area as far as commercial use is concerned," he said.

Earle-Handley started flying drones just over a year ago, and its usefulness to take high-resolution, high-definition video has truly impressed him.

"Before drones people would hire helicopters or a boom truck. I can come in, with this - it's very portable - in and out in 20 minutes," he said.

That portability has caught on across the globe - and now, drones are being used for almost anything, including searching for missing persons, helping with search and rescue missions and hunting.

It's this that has the NH Fish & Game Dept. concerned.

They have also drafted a regulation that would ban drone use to find and take game - something that officials say may be happening now.

"As of right now, there is nothing that prevents the use of drones in the state of New Hampshire to be used for the taking of wildlife," said Chief Martin Garabedian of the NH Fish & Game Law Enforcement division.

The department says they view the use of drones while hunting as a fair chase issue, and claim that most hunters in the state agree.

But they aren't against unmanned aerial vehicles completely - they've even discussed how they can use them to their advantage - like for search and rescue and research.

The FAA has started some online marketing campaigns and is spreading awareness on where drones can and cannot fly, but while definitions and regulations are limited - it has become frustrating for those who have picked up the hobby, like Shannon Laramie of Franklin.

"It's kind of become an addiction," Laramie said.

Over the past year, Laramie said he has spent a lot of money on capturing scenery.

"Probably $7000-$8000 dollars into the hobby," he said.

Laramie has an entire room in his apartment filled with tools to do any repairs to the several drones he has started to purchase and build.

"We call it the hangar," Laramie said with a chuckle.

The Franklin-native often shares his videos on YouTube--capturing New Hampshire in ways no one has seen before.

"It is fun for me to show other people what some of the surrounding towns and lakes look like from the air just because I enjoy it so much, I hope other people will too," he said.

Laramie said friends have asked him to help them hunt using his drone. He hasn't done it yet, but said he might consider it - stating that people should embrace newer uses of a new technology.

"Every time it's up there, I still get the same feeling of awe that I actually have the technology in my hands to do this," he said.

Bill 1620-FN was proposed to take effect Jan. 1, 2015, but it remains in interim study in the Senate.


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