New Hampshire bill seeks total ban on civilian aerial photography

Joining a chorus of states seeking to limit the use of unmanned aerial systems (commonly referred to as “drones” in the media), New Hampshire has written up legislation that would end aerial photography of any kind.
Neal Kurk, a Republican and longtime legislator in New Hampshire’s House of Representatives, introduced HB 619 on January 3.The bill would make it a class A misdemeanor to “knowingly creates or assists in creating an image of the exterior of any residential dwelling in this state” with an aerial system, which would carry a maximum fine of $2,000 and up to one year in jail.

The law would make no exception for property owners who willfully have taken pictures of their own property, or have contracted a commercial service to take photos of their own property.

Law enforcement, however, would still have tremendous latitude to obtain aerial photos.

The law specifically mentions that police could collect aerial photos when “supported by articulable suspicion, attempt to capture any type of visual image, sound recording, or other physical impression of a person during an investigation, surveillance, or monitoring of conduct to obtain evidence of suspected illegal activity, the suspected violation of any administrative rule or regulation, a suspected fraudulent insurance claim, or any other suspected fraudulent conduct or activity involving a violation of law, or pattern of business practices adversely affecting the public health or safety.”

Interestingly, HB 619 wouldn’t just limit aerial photos taken by “drones,” but would also place a ban on photos obtained from satellites or “any device that is not supported by the ground.”

Larry Lohrman, a Salem, Ore. real estate photographer, wrote “Based on the public discussion that I’ve seen on this subject, I’m going to go out on a limb and make a wild guess and predict that this is not going to be an isolated incident. My guess is that other states will be doing this too.”

“So does this mean that if HB 619-FN is passes New Hampshire will disappear from the satellite layer of  Google Maps?” he added.

The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in 1986 that it was legal to take aerial photos from the National Airspace System (NAS).

In Dow Chemical v EPA, the court ruled that “the intimate activities associated with family privacy and the home and its curtilage simply do not reach the outdoor areas.” On the same day, the court also ruled in California v. Ciraolo that taking aerial photographs of back yards, even from 1,000 feet, did not constitute a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Matthew Schroyer is a drone journalist and founder of DroneJournalism.org, and is a co-founder of the transdisciplinary research consultancy DronesForGood.com. He can be reached at mschroyer@gmail.com, or on Twitter as @matthew_ryan