90 Miles From Tyranny : Idaho Restricts Drones Use By Police Agencies, Florida Moves Bill Forward To Restrict Drone Use By Police

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Friday, April 12, 2013

Idaho Restricts Drones Use By Police Agencies, Florida Moves Bill Forward To Restrict Drone Use By Police


(Reuters) - Idaho's Republican governor signed a law on Thursday that restricts use of drone aircraft by police and other public agencies as the use of pilotless aircraft inside U.S. borders is increasing. The measure aims to protect privacy rights.

In approving the law, which requires law enforcement to obtain warrants to collect evidence using drones in most cases, Idaho becomes the second U.S. state after Virginia to restrict uses of pilotless aircraft over privacy concerns.

"We're trying to prevent high-tech window-peeping," Idaho Senate Assistant Majority Leader Chuck Winder, sponsor of the measure in the Republican-led Idaho legislature, told Reuters earlier this year as the bill was pending in the legislature.

Current federal regulations sharply limit the number and types of drones that can fly in American airspace to just a few dozen law enforcement agencies, including one in Idaho, public agencies including the Department of Homeland Security and universities for scientific research.

But unmanned aircraft are expected to be widely permitted in coming years, raising fears about misuse of miniature devices that can carry cameras which capture video and still images by day and by night.

Lawmakers in Idaho and more than a dozen states this year introduced legislation to safeguard privacy in the face of an emerging market the unmanned aerial vehicle industry forecasts will drive $89 billion in worldwide expenditures over the next decade.

The measure Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter signed into law on Thursday requires police to obtain warrants to use drones to collect evidence about suspected criminal activity unless it involves illegal drugs or unless the unmanned aircraft is being used for public emergencies or search-and-rescue missions.

The Idaho bill, approved last week by the state Senate and the state House of Representatives, also bans authorities, or anyone else, from using drones to conduct surveillance on people or their property, including agricultural operations, without written consent.

Idaho's Republican governor couldn't be immediately reached for comment.

Americans are most familiar with drones because of the use of armed, unmanned aircraft by the United States for counter terrorism operations against Islamist militants in countries like Pakistan and Yemen.

The majority of unarmed drones expected to operate in U.S. airspace when restrictions are rolled back by the Federal Aviation Administration in 2015 weigh less than 55 pounds and fly below 400 feet, according to a September report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

Cash-strapped law enforcement agencies see small drones, which cost as little as $30,000, as money-saving, low-manpower tools that could locate illegal marijuana farms, seek missing children and track dangerous fugitives.

Yet worries about widespread snooping persist. In February, privacy concerns prompted the Virginia legislature to put a hold on drone use for two years, and grounded a plan by Seattle police to deploy two camera-equipped drones.

Civil uses for drones would likely emerge first after 2015, while a commercial market would develop more slowly as airspace issues are resolved, the GAO report shows. Possible uses include pipeline inspection, crop dusting and traffic monitoring.

The FAA's goal is to eventually allow, to the greatest extent possible, routine drone operations in U.S. airspace.


(CNN) -- Florida state senators voted Wednesday to restrict the use of unmanned aircraft by police, approving a bill backed by both the state's conservative Republican governor and the ACLU.
The Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act would require a judge to sign off on the use of surveillance drones in nearly all cases. The legislation makes exceptions in cases involving "imminent danger to life or serious damage to property" and when "credible intelligence" from the federal Department of Homeland Security points to "a high risk of a terrorist attack."
The bill is headed for the state House of Representatives after Wednesday's 39-0 vote in the Senate. If it makes it through the House, Gov. Rick Scott says he'll have his pen ready.
"I believe that privacy should be protected," Scott said in a paper statement, adding, "This law will ensure that the rights of Florida families are protected from the unwarranted use of drones and other unmanned aircraft."
The use of drones has become controversial in recent years as unmanned aerial vehicles have become cheaper and more advanced. The concerns range from moral questions over their use in warfare overseas to worries about their impact on air traffic in the United States.
"We are pleased that SB 92 was passed with such enthusiasm by the Florida Senate. Because of the Senate's action, our state is on pace to be the one of the first to protect privacy by putting limits on the use of unmanned surveillance drones, " Ron Bilbao of the ACLU of Florida said in a written statement.
In Florida, the Miami-Dade Police Department and the Orange County Sheriff Department each have two drones. Miami-Dade's roughly backpack-sized Honeywell T-Hawks have been used only in training exercises so far, Detective Roy Rutland said.

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