The Connecticut General Assembly’s office of program review and investigations (PRI) is backing a bill that would regulate the use of weaponized unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
The legislature’s PRI committee has unanimously approved the bill, which would curb the civilian and police use of UAVs to carry guns, incendiary devices, tear gas and other weapons. After a more comprehensive bill failed to become law last year, this legislation is a second attempt, says the PRI committee.
The PRI committee says its job is “to determine whether state programs and policies are effective, continue to serve their intended purposes, are carried out efficiently and effectively, or require modification or elimination.”
The raised bill states as follows: “Except as otherwise provided by law, no person shall operate or use any computer software or other technology, including, but not limited to, an unmanned aerial vehicle, as defined in subdivision (29) of section 15-34 of the general statutes, as amended by this act, that allows a person, when not physically present, to release tear gas or any like or similar deleterious agent or to remotely control a deadly weapon, as defined in section 53a-3 of the general statutes, or an explosive or incendiary device, as defined in section 53-206b of the general statutes.”
PRI says law enforcement would be allowed to use computer software to control drones, and bomb squads could use drones to detect, detonate and dispose of explosives.
According to the general assembly, S.B.148 now moves to the judiciary committee.
The rest of the PRI committee’s comprehensive 2015 bill is pending before the public safety committee and includes procedures for the use of drones by local and state officials, including the use of warrants and reports for gathering and disclosing information.
Rep. Mary Mushinsky, D-Wallingford, ranking member of the PRI committee, says the committee, in a 2014 study, anticipated the possibility of a civilian’s attempt to modify drones in a way that would endanger residents. Thus, they sought to make such modifications illegal.
However, according to the general assembly, the committee’s fear was recognized last year when a Clinton, Conn., teen modified a drone to carry both a flamethrower and a firearm and posted footage of the operations to YouTube. Under this bill, those modifications would be illegal.
The Hartford Courant reports that the teen, 19-year-old Austin Haughwout, was recently expelled from his school, Central Connecticut State University, for having “conversations about weapons” and “attacks on the university” with other students.
Haughwout is now filing a $15,000 lawsuit against the school by claiming the expulsion stems, instead, from the national notoriety of his weaponized drones. In a third incident involving UAVs, Haughwout was also assaulted by a 23-year-old beachgoer back in summer 2014 after he flew his drone at a Madison, Conn., beach.