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Drone study begins: Rules for aircraft to be established
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The House study committee charged with developing regulatory policies for drone use across the state had its first meeting last week in Atlanta.

"We attempted to use it as an educational for the committee members to get up to speed of where we are in drone technology, where we are with the regulatory environment and where we're going in the future," said Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville, chairman of the committee.

More than 70 members of the public attended the committee meeting held at the Georgia Tech's research center, evidence of the interest and popularity of unmanned aircraft systems, Tanner said.

While drones have been used for years by farmers to survey land and power companies to identify utility lines, their use by law enforcement to collect surveillance and bans on flying the devices near state or federal facilities have sparked the interest of numerous groups across the state.

"There's concern from the [Federal Aviation Administration] about recent reports of drones being spotted around Hartsfield and other major airports by commercial airline pilots, so there are concerns about drones being misused," Tanner said.

New regulations on the private use of drones are also expected to come out of the discussions, specifically those that would be considered to protect public safety and privacy.

"We've got reports locally where drones are flying over people's property and looking in windows, the back of the house, that type of thing," Tanner said. "Currently, there's not anything in the law that can be done, so if you contact local law enforcement and say there's a drone flying over my backyard videotaping my children outside in the swimming pool, there's nothing the local law enforcement can do about it.

"That's going to be an issue we're going to focus on."

Moving forward, Tanner said there will also be a focus on the state's role in attracting the growing industry.

"It's reported that it's going to be a $4.5 billion industry by 2020," Tanner said.

Additionally, Walmart has already predicted that drones will be the No. 1 ticket item this Christmas.

"It's anticipated that over 1 million drones will be sold for Christmas alone," Tanner said.

The committee meets again on Oct. 14, at which time the focus will be governmental and law enforcement use of drones.

"We'll be hearing from the director of the GBI, the Georgia Sheriff's Association, chiefs of police, ACCG, GMA and others representing governmental industries," Tanner said.