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Suffolk County may restrict camera-carrying drones

A proposed Suffolk County bill would ban camera-carrying

A proposed Suffolk County bill would ban camera-carrying drones from flying over county property, including parks, beaches and government offices. Above, a small drone that crashed onto the White House grounds in Washington, D.C., on Monday, Jan. 26, 2015. Credit: AP / U.S. Secret Service

Camera-carrying drones would be banned from flying over Suffolk County property, including parks, beaches and government offices, under a bill that passed a legislative committee Thursday.

Sponsor Legis. Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma) said he introduced the proposed law over concerns about the use of drones in a terrorist attack, as well as privacy.

"They might be fun to use, but in the right way," he said. He pointed to a drone found on the roof of the Japanese prime minister's office Wednesday that had trace amounts of radioactive material.

Legis. Kate Browning (WF-Shirley) said she is concerned about drones with cameras flying over bathing beaches. "It's a little bit eerie," she said. "It's kind of spooky."

Remote-controlled unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly called drones, have boomed in popularity in recent years. The Federal Aviation Administration has moved to regulate the drones, licensing them for commercial uses.

Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) said he'd like some park areas to be designated as drone fly zones, though he supports the bill.

"Just because you have a camera on a drone doesn't mean you're trying to invade someone's privacy," said Gregory, who said he flew a friend's drone to photograph the coastline.

The law, which will be voted on by the full legislature on Tuesday, would carry a $500 fine. Permission to fly a drone can be granted by the head of the county department that oversees the property or building. The law does not ban government agencies, like police, from using drones.

Muratore said he'd like to ban drones outright, but said he hoped this bill would spread more restrictions. "I'm hoping it's a spark that will ignite across the country," he said.

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