UPDATE: Governor Wolf signed HB 1346 on October 12, 2018 and it became Act 78.
Today, Representative Jeff Pyle‘s Unlawful Use of Unmanned Aircraft bill, HB 1346, was signed in the House, after passage in both the Pennsylvania House and Senate, and is expected to be signed by Governor Wolf in the near future.
This bill criminalizes the intentional or knowing use of unmanned aircraft (i.e. drones) to conduct “surveillance of another person in a private place” (defined as a “place where a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy”), to “operate in a manner which places another person in reasonable fear of bodily injury”, and to “deliver, provide, transmit or furnish contraband.” Of course, there is a law enforcement, government agency employee, firefighter, emergency medical responder and “electric, water, natural gas or other utility employee” exception; however, the need for such exceptions are questionable, unless law enforcement or firefighters are now running contraband to individual in PA, like ATF did in Fast and Furious. Also, permitting these individuals to surveil another person in a private place, in the absence of a warrant, would be in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Knowing Representative Pyle, I am 100% sure that these were not his idea, as he is an ardent protector of both the U.S. and Pennsylvania Constitutions.
Of significant importance to our unmanned aircraft viewers, it also provides a preemption provision; whereby, all municipalities (defined as including counties, cities, boroughs, towns, townships..etc) are precluded from enacting and regulating the “ownership or operating of unmanned aircraft.” I have to applaud Representative Pyle for this all inclusive language – the only additional provision I would have liked to have seen was an attorney fee provision for any municipality that unlawful enacts or enforces any unmanned aircraft policy, regulation, or ordinance.