Proposed Pa. limits on drones prompt concern

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    Pioneers in the growing field of commercial drones are hoping Pennsylvania lawmakers don’t opt for extra restrictions on unmanned aircraft.

    A forthcoming bill sponsored by Sen. Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon, would curb the use of drones by local governments for two years — with exceptions for emergencies and the Pennsylvania National Guard. Folmer said he’s concerned that drones pose a threat to citizens’ constitutional rights against unlawful searches.

    “It’s going to be a balancing act,” agreed Michael Mogavero, who’s starting up a drone business in Delaware County. “But my hope would be that as they look at those types of policy decisions that we’re not cutting our nose off to spite our face, because the up side is much greater than the potential for down side.”

    Mogavero said a blanket ban would hurt entities that see unmanned aircraft as a cost-saving tool.

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    “If we have neighboring states, whether it be Maryland or New York or even Ohio, that are actively deploying these technologies over businesses and farms and fields, and they’re using that to gain competitive edge and we are not, then obviously we’re putting ourselves behind the eight-ball,” said Mogavero.

    Drones are piquing the interest of various public- and private-sector entities.

    Real estate firms see drones as an easier way to survey buildings. Local governments see them as an opportunity to cut costs on infrastructure maintenance. Penn State Extension educators are reportedly testing drones as a more efficient way to monitor farms for crop damage.

    The federal government is still working on proposed regulations for commercial unmanned aircraft. Right now private operators can apply for a waiver for permission to fly.

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