Proposed Ban Could Kill Aerial Photography

Proposed Ban Could Kill Aerial Photography

Many states are struggling with how to deal with drone technology, more specifically "mini-drones" and the adoption of UAV's by law enforcement. Spurred by this, Representative Neal Kurk has recently proposed a bill to squash any sort of aerial imagery.

The bill says this:

A person is guilty of a class A misdemeanor if such person knowingly creates or assists in creating an image of the exterior of any residential dwelling in this state where such image is created by or with the assistance of a satellite, drone, or any device that is not supported by the ground. This prohibition shall not apply where the image does not reveal forms identifiable as human beings or man-made objects. In this paragraph, “dwelling” means any building, structure, or portion thereof which is occupied as, or designed or intended for occupancy as, a residence by one or more individuals.

Does anything strike you as strange about this?

First, the bill is offered up as a way to protect citizens from being spied on or documented. Most complaints from citizens revolve around the government's use of these devices, not aerial photographers or even services like Google maps. Yet, the bill specifically excludes government officials and entities which effectively ignores the public's actual subject of complaint.

Second, is the section about "forms identifiable as human beings or man-made objects." That means no buildings, but would also include roads, power lines, vehicles, dumpsters, or even a rogue sock sitting in a field. What about man-made lakes? What makes a low altitude aerial photograph so different from one taken on the ground of the same subject? What if I'm coming in on a flight and snap a photo out the window of the city lights below me?

Third is the fact that this is effectively a proposed ban on many people's hobbies, and is some cases professions.

What is the point of this ban in the end? Is it truly necessary?

I could see banning aerial photography of government buildings, that makes sense. This blanket ban seems to be very poorly thought out to say the least.


Read more and look over the ban yourself at AGBeat

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Jorge Tamez's picture

So we have predator drones killing US Citizens, but this is too much?

Sounds like a bill mainly targeted to protect privacy of Hollywood Millionaires residing in their huge residents. Paparazzi armed with mini drones could scare out the hell of those Millionaires.

Sandro Sandrini's picture

America land of the free!!!!!

pretty sure that this bill would not only never pass, but would be struck down by any judge as unconstitutional for a number of reasons.  

I guess Google Maps would get broken.  But street view is OK.

> I could see banning aerial photography of government buildings, that makes sense.

But what's a government building? Some, like the Pentagon and the White House, are obvious but in the Baltimore-DC or NYC area, chances are good that any aerial photo might include a less obvious government building. Even a wilderness aerial photo might include a US Forest Service building or such. So any restrictions might need to have exemptions for incidental inclusion of govt buildings.

Welcome to the fascist states of america...

The dudes a Republican Senator...GOP.....

 oh, you're still into that left/right paradigm...sorry 'bout that...

Ive got a few aerial photo opps for Senator Neal Kurk and his bill!

This sort of thing makes me seethingly angry. 

The idea that you shouldn't be able to photograph a building leads me to believe you aren't a -photographer, Where is expectation of privacy in a building?  Have you completely lost your senses? If you can walk by it, you can see it and if you can see it .. there is no expectation of privacy. If I climb my tree and can see your back yard then there is no expectation of privacy in that back yard. Now, I may not be able to publish that photo based on the individuals that are in the back yard, because people do have an expectation of privacy that prevents me from publishing that photo without their consent. But public employees and buildings lack that protection. Please please be careful of the way you word exceptions to the rights that EVERY photographer has. You do a disservice by repeating the misguided notion that our rights should be limited to a perceived threat.

"any device that is not supported by the ground" -- Tether your drone with a thin wire transmitting some signal back to the ground... -- tl;dr --> your drone is now supported by the ground. Aerial photography happens once again.

Theres a loop hole for you

Isn't "supported by the ground" open for an even more broad interpretation, if you actively remote control a drone, aren't it being supported by ground?...

In opposed to a pre-programmed intelligent drone that can make it's flight without any interaction with the ground?

There are many issues on this thing. What if someone were flying one of these things in a populated area and lost control? What if someone got seriously injured or killed?

Then it'd be no different than flying any number of radio controlled devices.
If I lost control of my radio controlled aeroplane or helicopter tomorrow and killed you, your family would have a suit against me, no problems and I wouldn't have a hope of defence..

As it is, it's currently illegal in most of the United States to operate a camera equipped remote flying device (octocopters being the norm) without FAA approval.

So this becomes yet another pointless bill.

 AMA has a code and flight ruls.  They must also fly by FAA regulations, especially in populated areas.  If you want to learn more about FPV flying go here:

Roger Harman's picture

So much for the 'Land of the Free'  once again!

I looked at doing some mini drone stuff. I asked my business insurance agent if I was covered. Basically the response was hell no. If the drone were to crash I would be 100% liable for any damaged it caused. If it were to crash into and kill a person I should expect criminal charges. It just was not worth the risk to me.  

Roger Harman's picture

@google-30451cd7df2dc21858cb66ca1f896788:disqus I'd use a balloon, or a kite!  :)

That will never (clears throat here) "Fly" because it would also have to ban news helicopters and we have freedom of the press. It is just another example of a politician wasting tax dollars while researching and putting together a losing battle. Some of these dopes should not be allowed in office. You have to take years of school to practice law but these bone heads can just get in office and try to make laws like this. Useless! 


I could be wrong but this bill will affect News helicopters....and what are the movie producers going to do shoot all movie scenes from a moving vehicle. Oh and I guess the NFL can kiss the blimp goodbye! 

Neal Kurk  is not a Senator, he is a Rep in the  New Hampshire House of Representatives
And by the way the bill is worded Rep. Kurk is not particularly bright..
Here is his email, let him know what you think of his bill.

Why did you post a picture of an european city? Makes no sense...

Brendan Cherry's picture

It's an aerial photo, that's why

This is a good ban.  It's hard to swallow for some but overall it's a good thing.  Most ariel photographers in the US don't practice proper procedures when it comes to clearance for their UAV's.  The reason it's a blanket ban is simply because blanket bans work.  Banning a small part of something doesn't work as people always find a way to manipulate that.  
As far as peoples professions go, my heart goes out to them, but it happens.  If their fellow ariel photographer/videographers would practice by following the rules this probably wouldn't happen but at this point it seems like the only practical solution.  

Whether or not it's clear to you, this information is highly sensitive.  Publishing such imagery is and always has been illegal.  Now they're just enforcing the law better.  

Back to kites!  

Man Fstoppers was so great until they started having additional writers writing about topics without doing any research first, or having dumb opinions or not even reading previous posts by Fstoppers. I would prefer less content with more of the original types of content than the current constant rubbish.

Brendan Cherry's picture

I don't know who you're talking about when you say 'most'. All the aerial videography that I've seen are clearly for clients (a house sale or similar) or obviously a short film where everyone in the shot would presumably have signed release forms. Of course there are the extreme wide shots but any person seen in them (including buildings and man made items!) is generally incidental.

This sounds like pretty much the stupidest rule. Next it will be illegal to take photos of the earth from the international space station...

Brandon Luckain's picture

 Sounds like Mayor Bloomberg's reasoning for his soft drink ban. I'd hate to have you in public office lol.

And how about this?

Let's ban people!

It's the only way to keep people from doing stuff some schmuck in a government suit wouldn't want people to do...

And while we're at it, let's ban some books too!

And it's okay for those drones to butcher kids in Pakistan because they'll all grow up to be terrorist anyway, right?

Man, fstoppers was so great until folks started agreeing with any prick's law amendment...