by Patrick Gannon
State officials may seek funding through the state budget to create a new board to guide and regulate the use of drones by state and local government agencies in North Carolina.
A recent report from the state Office of the Chief Information Officer recommends the special panel to develop policies for unmanned aircraft systems, create standards for their use and operations and approve or deny drone use requests, among other duties. The proposed UAS Governance Board would have to be created through state legislation.
Chris Estes, the state chief information officer, told lawmakers at a meeting of the House Committee on Unmanned Aircraft Systems on Monday that the board was modeled after existing boards in North Carolina, as no other state has created such a panel to regulate drone use. “We’re in new territory,” he said.
According to initial estimates, the board would cost an estimated $215,000 a year for an executive director and data analyst, about $130,000 for data storage and management and about $435,000 a year to operate and maintain the unmanned aircraft. Potential costs also include about $850,000 in initial set-up costs for a UAS program, including purchasing the aircraft and related equipment.
A budget request for Governance Board funding is being submitted for the 2014-15 fiscal year, which begins July 1, according to the report. Lawmakers will debate the budget when they return to Raleigh in May for the legislative short session.
The board, as proposed, would include 13 members, including representatives from the Office of the Chief Information Officer, Department of Transportation, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Public Safety and the NextGen Air Transportation Center at N.C. State University, which is conducting UAS tests in the state. The governor and General Assembly leaders also would appoint members.