Tenn. legislators approve bill increasing penalty for flying drone over ‘critical infrastructure’

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NEW YORK, NY – AUGUST 23: A new DJI Mavic Zoom drone flies during a product launch event at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, August 23, 2018 in New York City. DJI announced the release of two new drones, the Mavic 2 Pro and the Mavic 2 Zoom, which includes a 2x optical zoom lens. On […]

A bill that would make it a felony to fly a drone over certain areas has passed the General Assembly and now awaits the governor’s signature. 

HB 308 / SB 306 “increases the penalty for using an unmanned aircraft over a critical infrastructure facility without the business operator’s consent from a Class C misdemeanor to a Class E felony.”

In Tennessee, a Class C misdemeanor carries a sentence of no more than 30 days in jail, a $50 fine or both. A Class E felony carries a jail sentence between one and six years and a fine up to $3,000. 

According to the bill’s fiscal note, there have been zero convictions under the existing statute in state courts in the past five years.

If signed into law, “critical infrastructure facility” would include:

  • A communication service facility
  • An electrical power generation system; electrical transmission system, either as a whole system or any individual component of the transmission system; or electrical distribution substation
  • A petroleum refinery
  • A manufacturing facility that utilizes any hazardous substance, as defined in § 68-131-102, either in storage or in the process of manufacturing
  • A chemical or rubber manufacturing facility
  • A petroleum or chemical storage facility
  • A water or wastewater treatment facility
  • Any facility, equipment, or pipeline infrastructure utilized in the storage, transmission, or distribution of natural gas or propane
  • Railroad yards and facilities not open to the general public

The measure was sponsored by Sen. Jon Lundberg (R-Bristol) and Rep. Bud Hulsey (R-Kingsport). 

Sen. Lundberg previously told News Channel 11 the legislation was introduced with places like Eastman Chemical Company, Domtar, and Bristol Motor Speedway in mind. 

See also: Bill would increase penalty for flying a drone over Eastman and other facilities

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