SALT LAKE CITY -- After some tweaks and alterations, the House Transportation Committee gave its endorsement to a resolution declaring Utah open for business to the drone industry.
The resolution, HCR 3, was halted earlier this week as members of the committee had concerns that the resolution did not go far enough in declaring that Utahns' privacy would be protected if the pilotless aircrafts began to be designed and manufactured within the state.
Rep. Val Peterson, R-Orem, the chief sponsor of the resolution amended the bill on Thursday and it quickly gained the committee's approval.
Peterson's amendments declared that residents of Utah should not have their privacy rights infringed upon, as guaranteed under the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. They also included the provision that any information gathered by an unmanned aircraft could not be used against someone in court unless it was obtained through a search warrant. The resolution also stated that test sites within the state are to report regularly on the actions taking place at the sites to a unmanned aircraft board created by the governor.
"I have had some constituents contact me about this legislation and I think your new verbiage alleviates their concerns," Rep. David Lifferth, R-Eagle Mountain, said to Peterson in the meeting. "I can accept this as it is written now. I feel much better about it."
Peterson told the committee that the resolution will be good for the state in attracting new drone-related businesses as the resolution will serve as one more tool to show business owners in this industry that Utah's Legislature is on board with unmanned aircrafts. Peterson said states that have proven to be friendly to the weapons industry have seen an increase in weapon-related businesses in their state. He said he hopes to see the same with the drone industry in Utah.
"I think this is a great opportunity for the state to support an industry that will continue to grow," Peterson said.
The legislation has the support of the Governor's Office of Economic Development.
When the bill was first considered, Vincent Mikolay, managing director of business creation for GOED, said his office has been actively working to recruit drone-related businesses to the state. He said more than a dozen drone businesses have contacted his office about relocating here.
Mikolay also explained that Utah is a prime location for drone development as many of its rural areas could be used for flight testing areas.
The unmanned aircraft industry has come into the spotlight recently thanks in part to drone use in the U.S. military's efforts in Afghanistan as well as one major online retailer discussing the idea of using drones to deliver products.
Mikolay told the committee that drones could also be used for search and rescue operations and assisting firefighters in locating individuals trapped in burning buildings.
The resolution now moves forward to be considered by the full body of the House of Representatives.