North Carolina Governor Signs Law on UAS Near Prisons

Gov. Roy Cooper, D-N.C., has signed into law a bill that makes it illegal to fly a drone over or near prisons and jails.

Under H.B.128, those who use unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to deliver – or attempt to deliver – weapons or other contraband to North Carolina inmates could be charged with felonies; flying within 500 feet of a prison could result in a misdemeanor charge. The bill states that the limits are a horizontal distance of 500 feet and a vertical distance of 250 feet.

According to the governor, drones have been found carrying contraband at or near North Carolina prisons at least twice.

“Criminals look to exploit the latest technology, and we must make sure our laws keep up,” Cooper says in a press release. “Drones are the newest way to get drugs and weapons behind prison walls, and this law will help law enforcement fight prison contraband and the crime it causes.”

According to the text of the bill, H.B.128 includes exceptions, such as drone operations by law enforcement officers or federally approved commercial UAS pilots. Commercial entities must still remain 150 feet away vertically and horizontally, however.

The act becomes effective on Dec. 1. This legislation isn’t the first of its kind; last year, for example, Wisconsin’s governor signed a similar act into law.

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