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Schumer Takes His Drone Legislation Crusade To Albany FBI HQ

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When it comes to unmanned flying vehicles, technology is moving faster than regulation. U.S. Senator Charles Schumer stopped by Albany FBI headquarters Wednesday, continuing his crusade to regulate drones.  "There are reckless drones on the loose in New York, and we've gotta take action to reel them in."

The New York Democrat has been beating the drum for clear FAA guidelines concerning drones since the beginning of the year, pushing for restrictions on the devices that would prevent them from entering the airspace of law enforcement agencies, government buildings, sports stadiums, and public events.  ARADE  "According to the NYPD, New York Police Department, two drones hovered over the West Indian Day Parade, that had two million people."

You can buy a drone equipped with a camera online for $34 plus shipping.  At the U.S. Open, a drone smashed into empty seats. Pilots of commercial airliners have documented close calls with drones, and Schumer referenced three high-profile incidents upstate.   "A local person flew a hobby drone over this very building. This is sensitive information. Who knows who had the drone? Obviously when you're the FBI and you see a drone unknown flying over your building it causes real concern. The video was then uploaded on YouTube. It's frightening to think that anyone with a drone can get this close to a law-enforcement building, especially one in a heavily-populated area. Not long before that, a drone flew over the correctional facility in Danemora, the high security prison that recently became famous nationwide as its two escapees that were captured, one killed. Imagine the risk that poses. The ability to bring contraband into the prison or the general safety of the inmates, staff.  And finally, the same person crashed a drone into the state Capitol here in Albany. The drone smashed into the building's chimney before falling on the roof, no one was injured. "

Schumer's "Consumer Drone Safety Act" would require drone manufacturers to include geo-fencing technology; think of an electronic force field that would stop the flying machines dead in their tracks.  "You could say, no drone can go within two miles of an airport. No drone can go above 500 feet. No drone can go in a half a mile perimeter of this FBI building. You could write it in so that every police station in the Capital Region has a no-fly zone, and it would be automatic, the drone simply couldn't fly there."

The Senator says his "common sense" law offers an "elegant solution."   "The largest drone manufacturer, it's a Chinese company, has already agreed to put this in its software."

Schumer added his measure carries stiff penalties for any drone-user flying without the new software and for anyone who takes steps to rewrite the program to override geo-fencing. He says there will be people who violate the law — and there will be ways to find them.

But Schumer says he doesn’t seek an outright ban on drones, proposed in various legislation around the country. He says it’s just a way to make sure everyone stays safe.   "Drones can be very, very valuable. They can be valuable to business. Our farmers can use drones to see, for instance, if they have a large farm, if there's a hole in the fence, if any cattle have escaped. Businesses use drones all the time, and there are lots of drone hobbyists. I think a million now in America. Tens of thousands here in upstate New York, and they should be allowed to have their hobby."

Bill Verbeten, a regional extension agronomist with Cornell University, agrees drones have a bright future in agriculture.   "We have a very safe airspace in the United States. One of the best in the world. While I am equally as frustrated as everybody else with the lack of apparent progress of the FAA putting the rules out there, I definitely understand their concern for safely integrating these things. So I would really caution people that we need to be safe first."

Schumer cites an FAA reauthorization bill that expires December 31st.   "It will be my job to try and get my legislation incorporated as part of it. And the it should take several months before it'll be actually implemented."

A call to the FAA was not returned in time for broadcast.

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