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States Move to Pass Drone Laws

Tuesday, 07 May 2013 10:52 AM

By Courtney Coren

Legislators in almost forty states have introduced bipartisan legislation to limit drone use due to concerns over privacy rights.

This move is receiving protests from police and other law enforcement groups who argue that the place for the unmanned, unarmed aircraft is widely misunderstood because of its use as a tool for hunting down terrorists.

Eighty-five drone related bills have been introduced this year in 39 states. Most of the measures require law enforcement to obtain a warrant before a drone can be used in an investigation, except for in life-threatening cases, Politico reports.

Michigan is one state where drone legislation has been introduced out of fear that the unmanned aircraft could be used to keep tabs on citizens.

"We want to make sure we don't create a system where Big Brother is always up there watching us," state Rep. Tom McMillin, a Republican sponsoring a drone bill, told Politico. "These can be used, but only in certain instances."

Law enforcement officials are taking issue with the limits legislators are putting on drones, and they argue that there are many good uses for the technology including searching for runaway fugitives, monitoring crime scenes and searching for lost hikers.

Other drone advocates think there is confusion between Predator drones used by the military and the domestic drones with limited capabilities.

The drone legislation is a result of libertarian minded Republicans banding together with Democratic colleagues who are encouraged to introduce bills by groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, an organization that is advocating for drone legislation.

" Republicans, particularly the libertarians, are interested in privacy from cutting-edge technology," said the ACLU's Allie Bohm. "In some ways, they get these issues more viscerally than the liberals do."

Drone laws have already passed in Florida, Idaho and Virginia, and there are bills waiting for governors' signatures in Tennessee and Montana. The laws in Florida and Idaho requires law enforcement to have permission from a judge before a drone may be deployed. The Virginia law puts a two-year moratorium on drone use while the state studies the technology.

However, at least six drone bills have failed as a result of efforts by drone supporters, so far.

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