Lawmakers take up drone regulation discussion on Monday - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Lawmakers take up drone regulation discussion on Monday

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Gun-firing drone produced in Connecticut went viral online. (Youtube photo) Gun-firing drone produced in Connecticut went viral online. (Youtube photo)

A Clinton teenager’s actions has pushed lawmakers to renew calls for regulation on drones.

Austin Haughwout has reignited the debate over drones.

Last year, he posted a 14 second YouTube video that went viral, and caught the attention of federal authorities. The video was of a drone firing off four gun shots, with nobody pulling the trigger.

On Monday, Haughwout testified before lawmakers.

"If done in a safe manner -- this bill doesn't cover anything that would be a public safety hazard,” Haughwout said.

When he filmed the drone, he said he was just fooling around, and had no intention of hurting anyone.

But lawmakers are more determined to get the new technology regulated.

"It’s just nuts --- we have to do everything we can to make people safe in our state. We need to step in and do something about drones and the misuse of drones,” said Stamford State Rep. William Tong.

Federal guidelines said drones cannot be flown near airports and they must be no higher than 400 feet, and the operator must be within eyesight.

The House of Representatives failed to vote on a proposal last session, just weeks before the teen strapped a gun to a drone and posted the video online.

Lawmakers are now looking at prohibiting people from weaponizing drones, allowing only police to do that.

"Initially it starts off as a novelty, isn't this a fun hobby, and now as people demonstrate what its capable of-- there's a little bit of fear built into this and how we can combat that,” said Berlin Police Chief Paul Fitzgerald.

Some, like the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union), have concerns about abuse. They feel police should be required to have a warrant.

"It’s absolutely clear that police community relations are very strained right now in Connecticut and across the country, and we don't want to see any further discord between communities and having police officers unnecessarily weaponize drones,” said David McGuire, of the ACLU.

Lawmakers said they want to make it a crime for someone to put a weapon on a drone. As for police, they are looking at allowing this for law enforcement, but with some regulation.

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