Some cities, states begin pushing back against drones as use increases nationwide

By End the Lie

Protest at Hancock Air Base just outside Syracuse, NY before the first day of Hancock 38 Drone Resisters trial on Nov. 1, 2011 (Image credit: Syracuse Peace Council/Flickr)

Protest at Hancock Air Base just outside Syracuse, NY before the first day of Hancock 38 Drone Resisters trial on Nov. 1, 2011 (Image credit: Syracuse Peace Council/Flickr)

Despite a constantly growing use of drones by public entities nationwide thanks to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) authorizations, not to mention the military, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), at least one National Guard unit and many more agencies, some cities and states are beginning to fight back.

Today it was reported that the mayor of Seattle announced “that the city’s police department is abandoning plans to put unmanned aerial vehicles — UAVs, or drones — into the sky.”

Similarly, Charlottesville, Virginia passed a resolution against drones, the state of Virginia’s legislators are likely to pass a two-year drone moratorium and Florida may become the first state to regulate drone use.

All of this comes as a Justice Department white paper outlining the supposed legal justification the assassination of Americans by drones was leaked, Obama was reportedly going to release the contested legal memo on the targeted killing program to legislators, the existence of a drone base in Saudi Arabia was revealed, and the use of drones abroad is reportedly going to continue indefinitely.

While the DHS seems to just love drones, as a Danger Room report outlining just five of the Department’s favorite robots shows, more Americans are clearly becoming fed up with this trend.

On top of Florida’s legislation which looks as though it is going to become law according to Ron Bilbao, a lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in Florida, many other states are looking to restrict drone use as well.

Speaking of the possibility of Florida’s legislation becoming law, Bilbao said, “It’s definitely looking that way. It has broad bipartisan support. Some Democrats are going to jump on soon and become co-sponsors. Everything I’ve heard so far has been positive. Public Defenders, Florida Sheriff’s Association, Florida Police Chiefs—all those folks were all in favor of the bill.”

Some of the states looking at legislation restricting drone use have been highlighted by Daniel Wheaton of the Drone Journalism Lab out of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s College of Journalism and Mass Communications.

Texas also has introduced legislation, although it’s quite far from perfect. According to the Texas Tribune, the legislation introduced by Texas State Rep. Lance Gooden still allows law enforcement agencies to use drones without a warrant.

Nebraska has seen legislation introduced by State Senator Paul Schumacher, legislation which is a bit more restrictive than the legislation introduced in Texas.

Indeed, the Nebraska legislation would reportedly prohibit law enforcement from using drones to “gather evidence or other information” and that “… evidence obtained or collected in violation of the … act is not admissible as evidence in a criminal prosecution in any court of law in this state,” according to the Lincoln Journal Star.

However, Oregon’s legislation restricting drones is even stricter than Nebraska’s. Both State Senator Floyd Prozanski and Rep. John Huffman have introduced separate bills that significantly restrict the use of drones by both private entities and law enforcement.

Oregon’s Senate Bill 71 makes possession or control of a drone (even hobby class remote aircraft) a criminal misdemeanor while flying a drone would become a class C felony under the bill, although public organizations may still use drones as long as they are documented.

The bill also would criminalize using a drone to hunt or stalk game, using a drone to fire a bullet or other projectile and using a drone for air combat, “including kamikaze techniques,” according to Wheaton.

Perhaps most noteworthy is the bill’s establishment of the “Airspace of Oregon” which would give the state significantly greater control over the use of drones.

Other states include Missouri – where a bill has been proposed that is nearly identical to Nebraska’s – along with North Dakota (requires warrants for law enforcement drone flights unless monitoring a catastrophe) and California (only sets the stage for future legislation).

Federal legislation has also been introduced and Rep. Ted Poe stated that the House Judiciary Committee could move to limit domestic drone spying.

This type of legislation is especially important due to the increasingly common use of drones in the U.S. and universities and colleges offering more drone training programs to keep up with the domestic boom.

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One Response to Some cities, states begin pushing back against drones as use increases nationwide

  1. Anonymous February 12, 2013 at 3:16 PM

    not holding my breath on this. the feds can come in and overturn anything if they want to.

    Reply

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