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Could North Carolina drone regs scrub business innovation?

Drones are big news these days. We're not talking about the weaponized tools being used in the war against terror. No, we're talking about the small unmanned aerial vehicles that seem to be popping up more and more in the hands of hobbyists and those with business vision who see opportunity in the radio-controlled machines.

We suspect few reading this blog are unaware of the drone crash that happened on the grounds of the White House Monday. The Secret Service says a hobbyist was responsible and it says there's no indication he intended any harm. Still, one has to wonder what he was thinking when he decided to fly the 2-foot-diameter quadcopter in that location at 3 o'clock in the morning.

There is no doubt developments in the drone world are happening at a very fast clip and that regulations are needed and desired. But critics say the Federal Aviation Administration has been slow on the stick and there are concerns it will likely take years for the FAA to come up with something -- throwing drone possibilities into a stall.

Where such a regulatory vacuum exists states tend to fill the void. That is what seems to have happened in North Carolina and it's got some in the state edgy. New rules passed by lawmakers took effect last month and critics complain they restrict the legitimate use of UAVs by private citizens while leaving the door open to their use by law enforcement.

For example, the International Business Times cites the American Civil Liberties Union as saying the law bans surveillance of individuals or their private property. But it doesn't define what constitutes surveillance and it allows it and other drone uses by police under specific circumstances.

The new rules aren't likely to stifle all entrepreneurs seeking to launch a business around this technology, but it's apparent that questions exist about what they do and don't allow. And where legal questions exist, consultation with an attorney is recommended.

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