BRIGHAM CITY, Utah —
The restrictions, which are similar to those adopted in other states, also come with an olive branch — the legislation notes lawmakers do not want to hamper the industry and research and cites the expected benefits the devices will bring to society.
About an hour north in Brigham City, nestled against the Wasatch Mountains, Box Elder County Sheriff J. Lynn Yeates said he's cognizant of the privacy concerns, but said a $7,000 multirotor drone his department has is solely for search and rescue and fire spotting.
The black aircraft, about 20 inches long, buzzes like a swarm of bees and can travel up to 2 miles in any direction. It's equipped with GPS and a camera that sends a live high-definition feed to Yeates and his team.
Yeates said it can be used to find hikers and others who get lost in the nearby steep, winding canyons and crevices every year. He said the device will not only save hours when trying to rescue people, but it will be less dangerous for his all-volunteer rescue team.
"You can't put a price on it," he said.
Troy May, whose Ogden-based company Digital Defense Surveillance sells and offers training on drones that can cost up to $50,000, supports the restrictions on an industry that already is generating interest in a wide swath of the public, from police to surveyors.
"It's going all kinds of different directions," he said of the industry.
That's precisely the point economic development officials are trying to make as lawmakers consider restrictions. Government use of the technology is a big driver for industry growth, said Vincent Mikolay at the Utah governor's economic development office.
Mikolay said unmanned systems are expected to be a billion-dollar industry in the U.S. over the next three years, and if states like Utah can land a portion of that, they'll see big economic gains.