OLR Bill Analysis

SB 975 (File 415, as amended by Senate "A")*

AN ACT CONCERNING MUNICIPALITIES AND UNMANNED AIRCRAFT.

SUMMARY

This bill generally prohibits municipalities from regulating the ownership, possession, purchase, sale, use, transportation, or operation of commercial unmanned aircraft (i.e., commercial drones), except as allowed under state or federal law and to the extent the regulations do not conflict with the Connecticut Airport Authority's (CAA) policies and procedures.

The bill creates an exception for any municipality that is also a water company (i.e., one that owns, maintains, operates, manages, controls, or employs any pond, lake, reservoir, well, stream, or distributing plant or system that supplies water to two or more consumers or to 25 or more people on a regular basis (CGS 25-32a)). It allows such municipalities to enact and enforce ordinances or resolutions regulating or prohibiting the use or operation of private and commercial drones over the municipality's public water supply and Class I or Class II land (watershed land and off-watershed land close to reservoirs) as long as the ordinances or resolutions do not conflict with federal law or CAA policies and procedures.

Under the bill, a commercial unmanned aircraft is one operated remotely by a pilot in command holding a valid remote pilot certificate with a Federal Aviation Administration-issued (FAA) small unmanned aircraft systems rating.

*Senate Amendment “A” (1) limits the prohibition to regulations concerning commercial drones, rather than all drones; (2) adds the exception for municipal water companies; and (3) modifies the definition of an unmanned aircraft.

EFFECTIVE DATE: Upon passage

BACKGROUND

Federal Regulation of Drones

FAA regulations establish specific requirements for drones depending on whether they are used for commercial or recreational purposes. Commercial drone use is subject to the Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Rule which establishes operational limits (e.g., maximum speed and altitude) and certification requirements and responsibilities for remote pilots (14 C.F.R. 107.1 et seq.). Recreational use is subject to the Special Rule for Model Aircraft which requires operators to register their drones with the FAA and follow certain operating rules (14 C.F.R. 101.41).

COMMITTEE ACTION

Planning and Development Committee

Joint Favorable

Yea

17

Nay

5

(03/17/2017)