Drone Use Among Many Topics at Judiciary Committee Public Hearing

Feb 24, 2014

State Senator Eric Coleman.
Credit CT-N

A lawsuit brought against the Hartford Police Department has piqued interest in private drone use in Connecticut. The state legislature's Judiciary Committee is expected to address the topic, among others, during a meeting on Monday.

A proposed bill would make it a felony carrying up to 20 years in prison for committing a crime using an unmanned aircraft equipped with a deadly weapon, and up to ten years in prison for crimes with a drone. Police could operate drones, but only for legitimate law enforcement purposes. 

The plaintiff in the Hartford drone case is Pedro Rivera, 29, a journalist who claimed that officers demanded he stop flying a remote-controlled aircraft about the scene of a fatal car crash on February 1. Rivera claimed police asked him to leave the area he was covering, and also told his employer that he had interfered with a police investigation.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court against the Hartford Police Department seeking damages for Rivera, asking the court to declare that he did not break any laws by operating the drone, a 2.5-pound, four-rotor aircraft.

The Federal Aviation Administration, which is investigating Rivera's use of an aerial drone, has discouraged their use for commercial purposes, including journalism.

This report includes information from The Associated Press.