The Drone Operator Safety Act was included in the Senate Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization.
The act makes it illegal to fly a drone near airport runways without permission or to fly in a way that poses a risk to the operation of a manned aircraft.
Violation of the act would result in prison time and/or a fine.
This would be the first criminal penalty for drone use. The FAA can levy civil penalties.
Pilots report drone sightings to the FAA, and they have been increasing in recent years.
Last year, there were 1,800 reported drone sightings, 600 more than 2015.
“Drone operators who interfere with commercial air space put Americans’ safety at risk and give drones a bad name,” Whitehouse said. “This bill would crack down on that dangerous behavior and hold bad actors accountable. I’m happy to join Jim Langevin to introduce this bill today and help make sure drones are used responsibly.”
Drone operators must be responsible for their drones’ safe operation and must know drones pose a risk to other aircraft, Langevin said.