While I think everyone in the commercial drone community will agree the last thing we need are hobbyist weaponizing their quadcopters at home, I’m concerned that the recent attention Austin Haughwout has been receiving will lead to broad legislation that stifles commercial drone growth and innovation in Connecticut.
With the viral video of a gun-firing drone making national headlines, Connecticut advocates are reenergized to pass a new law next year that would ban such weapons.
The state Senate passed a bill unanimously this year that would have banned weapons on drones used by both the police and the general public. But the bill never came to a vote in the state House of Representatives as time ran out in the legislative session. As such, advocates say it will be a top priority when the new legislative session begins in February.
Lawmakers have been studying the issue for the past two years, including forming a task force to better understand the new technology.
The latest interest came when 18-year-old Austin Haughwout of Clinton released a video that showed a drone firing bullets – which has been viewed more than 2.8 million times on YouTube. He was not charged in the case after police said he had not violated any state laws.
“We do not want to see drones with weapons on them, as in this incident, where we can’t take any legal action,” said Cromwell chief Anthony Salvatore, who has represented the Connecticut police chiefs at the state Capitol for the past two decades. “From law enforcement’s perspective, now, probably more than ever, we need to bring the bill back and address this type of situation.”
As the article mentioned, the state Senate had already passed a bill that would have made Austin’s invention illegal. The bill would have prevented police and general public from having weaponized drones. Why didn’t the bill make it to through the House of Representatives? According to the ACLU of Connecticut, “The dysfunction of the legislature got to it. … Everyone was expecting it to pass. It had a lot of momentum.”
One thing is for certain, the popularity of YouTube video of Austin’s gun firing drone combined with his recent run-in with local police is drawing the kind of attention that motivates our legislators. I doubt the next bill of this nature will slip through the cracks.