A bill that would have crippled Hawaii's burgeoning drone industry by outlawing their use by anyone but law enforcement has been shelved by the House Transportation Committee.
Transportation chairman Ryan Yamane decided not want to schedule a hearing for SB 2608 after receiving testimony from ranchers, researchers and cinematographers, all of whom said drones perform critical work that benefits the public.
"Everybody is using it for different reasons and so it is key that before we move any legislation forward, that we don't negatively impact all the value that it's going through now," Yamane told KITV4.
The bill's demise is welcome news to the owners of The Hobbietat in Kaimuki, which has seen a 75 percent increase in drone sales since Christmas. Co-owner Paula Farm sympathizes with those concerned about privacy rights, but believes a legislative fix can be crafted that satisfies all stakeholders. The main point of contention with naysayers of drones is the high-definition cameras that they often carry.
"I'm not real sure what the solution is, but it probably has to be looked at because of the 'bad' people that can make it bad," said Farm. "If you're using it in the right manner, in the right state of mind, then I don't see any harm to it."
Not everyone agrees with Yamane's decision about the anti-drone bill. As the measure made its way through the halls of the state Capitol, the ACLU of Hawaii wrote in support, saying the need for privacy protection must "keep pace with quickly advancing technologies."
Yamane said there's still a lot that needs to be determined about drones and their use. For example, air space above 400 feet is controlled by the Federal Aviation Administration, but below that is a gray area.
"If they're flying over and they're taking pictures, the question has been ongoing as who owns that," said Yamane. "Who owns above your home?"
Meanwhile, one drone bill remains alive at the state Capitol, SB 3053 SD2 HD1.
The bill would create a chief operating officer position to oversee the Pan-Pacific Unmanned Aerial Systems Test Range Complex, as well as an advisory board to manage test site operations.