States Target Non-Military Drones

Sunday, 24 Mar 2013 12:05 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Privacy advocates nationwide are concerned that numerous bills being presented to control the use of drones for research and rescue efforts in the United States may not be enough to protect Americans' rights.

Drones are increasingly being used by agencies such as police and fire departments, reports NBC News, and many agencies say the small flying machines are becoming crucial devices. The Federal Aviation Administration has been tasked to integrate drones into the U.S. air space by 2015, but their use for non-military purposes is already growing.

State officials are busy working on bills to protect residents from privacy and safety concerns. For example, Oregon lawmakers have proposed a bill to require anyone who operates a drone to be licensed by the Oregon Department of Aviation, according to the network.

In Indiana, a bill won't allow a news station to use drones to survey traffic or allow law enforcement to send them out searching for lost hikers. In Nebraska drones can't be used to gather information or evidence except in the case of a terrorist threat.

The bills, if passed, will help protect Americans' privacy, advocates argue.

“With drones, we have arrived at a moment when it is technologically possible to engage in constant mass aerial surveillance," American Civil Liberties Union senior policy analyst Jay Stanley told NBC. And even though surveillance cameras already watch people, drones “raise the stakes considerably from there,” he said.

Domestic drones aren't quite as powerful or effective as those being used by the Pentagon, but they still offer a new tool for law enforcement.

Current laws may be able to help prevent some abuses, said John Villasenor, policy expert with UCLA and the Brookings Institution. However, questions still remain about what will be done with the information that is gathered.

“Whether data's being collected by Google or from cellphones or bank cameras or traffic cameras, I don't think the medium is the essence," countered Michael Toscano, president of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, which represents drone makers, according to NBC.

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