States consider regulation of drones in US

Thousands of civilian drones are expected in U.S. skies within a few years and concerns they could be used to spy on Americans are fueling legislative efforts in several states to regulate the unmanned aircraft.

imageThousands of civilian drones are expected in U.S. skies within a few years and concerns they could be used to spy on Americans are fueling legislative efforts in several states to regulate the unmanned aircraft.

Varied legislation involving drones was introduced this year in more than 40 states, including Ohio. Many of those bills seek to regulate law enforcement’s use of information-gathering drones by requiring search warrants. Some bills have stalled or are still pending, but at least six states now require warrants, and Virginia has put a two-year moratorium on drone use by law enforcement to provide more time to develop guidelines.

Domestic drones often resemble the small radio-controlled model airplanes and helicopters flown by hobbyists and can help monitor floods and other emergencies, survey crops and assist search-and-rescue operations. But privacy advocates are worried because the aircraft can also carry cameras and other equipment to capture images of people and property.

“Right now police can’t come into your house without a search warrant,” said Ohio Rep. Rex Damschroder, who has proposed drone regulations. “But with drones, they can come right over your backyard and take pictures.”

Since 2006, the Federal Aviation Administration has approved more than 1,400 requests for drone use from government agencies and public universities wanting to operate the unmanned aircraft for purposes including research and public safety. Since 2008, approval had been granted to at least 80 law enforcement agencies.

But the FAA estimates that as many as 7,500 small commercial unmanned aircraft could be operating domestically within the next few years. A federal law enacted last year requires the FAA to develop a plan for safely integrating the aircraft into U.S. airspace by September 2015.

Damschroder’s proposed bill would prohibit law enforcement agencies from using drones to get evidence or other information without a search warrant. Exceptions would include credible risks of terrorist attacks or the need for swift action to prevent imminent harm to life or property or to prevent suspects from escaping or destroying evidence.

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Source: prairiebizmag.com

 

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