Monkey Business Report: Drones and Economic Development

monkeyIf you’re looking for shenanigans, you usually have to look no further than Raleigh’s Jones Street.

Liberals and libertarians have been quite passionate about placing controls on governmental use of drones domestically.  In June,  House Bill 1099 — a bill laying out rules for use of unmanned drone aircraft within the state — was referred to the Senate Rules Committee (a/k/a ApodacaLand).  The NCGA web site lists THAT as the last action on the bill.

Curiously, the language from House Bill 1099 shows up buried in the midst of SB 744 — an omnibus appropriations bill — passed on August 7.  Even more curiously — TWO DAYS AFTER SB 744 passed — state Rep. Tim Moffitt (R-Buncombe) had THIS to say to a Tea Party-affiliated constituent asking about the status of the drone legislation he co-sponsored:



“More than likely not going anywhere”?  It passed TWO DAYS EARLIER via a Senate appropriations bill.

What was the urgency?  Why so sneaky?  It may have something to do with THIS recent development: 

An aviation company that wants to open a research and development facility in Winston-Salem is pressing state Commerce officials to agree to a multi-million dollar purchase related to its unmanned aircraft products.

Olaeris said in December it had picked the Triad as its preferred choice for a site, based primarily on geography such as its elevation above sea level. It expects to create close to 200 jobs in its first phase, primarily engineers, technicians, programmers, pilots, trainers and support personnel.

Olaeris’ unmanned aerial systems are shaped like a flying saucer and capture images with digital technology.drone

The company is targeting law enforcement and first-response emergency groups. The aircraft could allow those groups to determine which roads are better options for responding to an emergency.[…]

*What a coincidence.*  The drone legislation specifically grants law enforcement specific permission to use drones as part of their duties.  Wait. It gets *better*:

Olaeris is talking with Commerce officials about an investment of up to $6 million in unmanned aircraft products and equipment to help the company demonstrate the products’ potential. The investment would be in lieu of state incentives.
Ted Lindsley, the company’s chief executive, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Lindsley previously has indicated the company could revisit sites in 18 other states if it does not get a state investment. He said he has been approached by at least 30 suppliers since the December announcement.
Commerce spokeswoman Kim Genardo said the department’s policy is to not comment on whether it is working on any particular project.
Lindsley said in June that Olaeris has been negotiating with Triad economic developers about a site and with state lawmakers about regulatory flexibility.[…]

Hmmm.  These guys want the state to buy up to $6 million worth of their products, or they will back out of locating in North Carolina.  Their products are tailor-made for law enforcement.  And the NCGA just made it kosher for lawmen in North Carolina to use drones.

It MUST be nice to have legislators standing by ready to change the law to benefit your business and throw you some cash.