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New drone laws take effect Dec. 1

RALEIGH – North Carolina’s laws are changing to stay up-to-date with the fast-growing drone industry. Two laws passed by the General Assembly in July will take effect Friday.

House Bill 128 prohibits drone use near prisons, jails and any other correction or containment facility. “Near” is defined as a horizontal distance of 500 feet or a vertical distance of 250 feet. Signs will be placed around facilities to remind drone users of the boundaries.

House Bill 337 revises state law to clarify that the unmanned aircraft provisions will now apply to model aircraft as well. Model aircraft users are still exempt from the state’s permitting requirements.

The revisions also loosen restrictions on the use of unmanned aircraft in emergency management. The law permits emergency management agencies to use drones for all activities related to emergency management and removes the restriction on the use of special imaging technology.

The use of technologies such as thermal and infrared was previously permitted only for scientific purposes. The removal of the restriction allows private and commercial operators to assist law enforcement with emergency management efforts such as search-and-rescue operations.

The Unmanned Aircraft Systems Knowledge Test Study Guide has been updated to reflect these changes and is available at the N.C. Division of Aviation’s website, along with information on how to ensure drone users are compliant with current regulations.

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