State lawmakers targeting weaponized drones after viral video

HARTFORD--Connecticut legislators are considering a bill to outlaw weapons on drones.

Austin Haughwout, 19, has become a controversial figure in the drone fight, especially locally. The teen first made headlines in June 2014 after a woman attacked him at Hammonasset State Park for flying a drone. He was flying his drone, and the woman felt he was doing it in an inappropriate way to get photos of girls in bikinis, and she then attacked him. It was all caught on camera, and the woman was charged with assault. That case is still pending.

Haughwout reentered the public scene the following year, when he posted a YouTube clip of a drone firing an attached handgun, which made national news and has millions of views. It also launched an FAA investigation. He is a CCSU student, and his professor says he discouraged the project.

Another popular video of his showed him roasting his Thanksgiving turkey with a flame-throwing drone.

Clinton police said they couldn't do anything about either weaponized drone because they were on Haughwout's private property, and he broke no laws.

On Monday, state lawmakers came to the Capitol to fight armed drones. A second hearing will take place Tuesday. The two hearings are about two different drone bills moving through the state House and Senate.

The American Civil Liberties Union stands behind the bill to ban any weapon accessories on drones, including ones used by police.

Bills are drafted that would restrict the use of drones and make it a class C felony or a crime to weaponize an unarmed aerial vehicle. The bill would make the use of drones to control explosives or deadly weapons, or to release tear gas or other substances, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

At the hearing before the Program Review and Investigations Committee, Haughwout defended his inventions.

"This is a bill, a bill giving a solution to a problem that simply doesn't exist, it's in search of a problem," Haughwout testified.  "It's already illegal to assault, it's already illegal to murder, it's already illegal to recklessly endanger the public."

The ACLU plans to also testify Tuesday before the Public Safety and Security Committee on a second bill to support police use of drones for emergency situations, as long as police first register their drones and obtain warrants to surveil people in the public.

If these laws are passed, Connecticut would be the first state to restrict drone owners from turning drones into flying weapons.