States make moves to put limits on drone use

Washington, Wisconsin seeking privacy protections from police, government

Dylan Stableford
Yahoo News
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A pair of states passed bills this week restricting the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, better known as drones.

In Washington, the state House passed two bills on Monday limiting the purchase and use of drones for government surveillance, The Associated Press reports.

House Bill 2789 requires state agencies and municipal governments to obtain search warrants to use drones in specific situations, including "emergencies with an immediate danger of death or serious bodily injury; criminal emergencies with immediate danger of death or serious bodily injury with no time to get a warrant; for military training on a base; training and testing of devices if no personal information is collected; a governor-declared state of emergency; or for an operation such as environmental or wildlife monitoring."

Also, agencies using drones would have to prepare annual reports for the public describing how they were used.

The bill was approved in an 83-15 vote.

The other, House Bill 2178, would ban the "unauthorized use of drones, or other unmanned aircraft with sensing devices, above private property." It passed by a vote of 92-6.

“This calls for reasonable regulation so we don’t have warrantless searches of the public," said Democratic Rep. Roger Goodman, who supported the bill with a goal "to control what might be fishing expeditions."

Both bills now head to the state Senate.

In Wisconsin, a bipartisan bill passed by the state Senate would make it a crime to "deploy an unmanned drone capable of video or audio recording in areas where people have a reasonable expectation of privacy," the AP said.

The bill also requires law enforcement to obtain a search warrant before using drones and would make it a felony for anyone to "sell, possess or operate a weaponized drone."

The measure would allow law enforcement to use a drone without a search warrant "if it is necessary to do so for certain emergency purposes, including to locate an escaped prisoner, to aid in a search and rescue mission, or to prevent imminent harm to a person or the imminent destruction of evidence." But any evidence obtained by a drone without a search warrant "is not admissible in a criminal proceeding."

The Wisconsin bill now heads to the state Assembly for consideration.

Other states and municipalities are considering similar legislation. Residents of Deer Trail, Colo., for example, will soon vote on a proposal that would grant drone hunting licenses to local hunters.

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