A House bill awaiting the governor's signature has potential to set the stage for Georgia to be a leader in the unmanned aircraft industry.
"We're on the cusp of an explosion in this industry and we've got a great opportunity in Georgia," said State Rep. Kevin Tanner, who authored the legislation. "We've got a lot of factors going for us that we can take advantage of and grow the industry."
Tanner recently met with representatives from a foreign company that have an interest in coming to Georgia because of the unmanned aircraft work that's been going on at the state level.
"We're hopeful we're able to continue to have those conversations and bring people here to the state in this industry," he said.
House Bill 779 went through several variations from the time it was first introduced in the House in January. There were some changes in the Senate that eventually resulted in a version both chambers approved.
"The legislation does several things. It defines, for the first time in Georgia law, what an unmanned aircraft is. It also creates the parameters that law enforcement can use unmanned aircraft," Tanner said.
The legislation also makes it illegal to weaponize drones.
"It's happened in other states. There have been instances when people have done that and had severe consequences," Tanner said. "We just felt like it was important to get out in front of that issue and make it clear that is something that will not be allowed in Georgia."
Additionally, if approved by Gov. Nathan Deal, the legislation would also contain language that prevents local cities and counties from passing ordinances that govern drones.
"We heard a lot of testimony from people like Amazon, Google and others that they are going to start using drones to makes deliveries," Tanner said. "They're not going to look at Georgia as being a place to do that if every city and county across the state has a different set of rules. It's important that the state have one set of rules that govern the use of drones statewide."
Lastly, the legislation creates an unmanned vehicle commission that would be tasked with promoting and identifying ways to grow this industry in the state in a safe manner while at the same time, protecting privacy and public safety of the citizens.
"This is a great opportunity for our state and the industry. We've worked with manufacturers and users, third parties are involved in the unmanned aircraft field, and they're very supportive and very pleased with the final product," he said. "They're also very excited about the unmanned vehicle commission and the potential that it holds to make Georgia a leader in this industry."