Maine joins 29 other states considering legislation to restrict police use of drones

By End the Lie

(Image credit: M Hooper/Flickr)

(Image credit: M Hooper/Flickr)

State lawmakers in Maine have taken the initial steps towards limiting the use of drones by both state and local law enforcement, joining the many other states around the country also looking to regulate drone use.

Similarly, cities including Seattle, Washington and Charlottesville, Virginia are pushing back against drone use as well.

The legislation in Maine, which is waiting on a vote in the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee, seems similar to that being considered in other states in that it “would limit the ability of state and local police to use drones and require a warrant before the unmanned vehicles are deployed in an investigation” according to the Portland Press Herald.

Unsurprisingly, the legislation has come up against resistance from law enforcement along with Maine’s Attorney General Janet Mills.

Mills claims that the bill is too broad and the Maine Department of Public Safety says that drones could come in handy for search and rescue operations. Much of the legislation around the country has a clause allowing for exemptions for emergency use.

The Maine Department of Public Safety already purchased a drone which, according to the deputy chief, was for the sake of “curiosity,” according to the Herald.

The bill is sponsored by Democratic state Senator John Patrick and is part of a larger effort by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to regulate the domestic drone use.

This is no small issue and does not end with law enforcement. As I recently reported, commercial drone operators sometimes just ignore federal regulations restricting drone use entirely.

As I reported on March 4, “Commercial use of drones domestically is just one aspect of the massive drone boom that has pushed colleges and universities to offer more drone piloting programs. Currently, no one even knows how many entities are cleared to fly drones by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).”

We must also consider how Customs and Border Protection uses drones capable of identifying people on the ground and intercepting electronic communications, how the Department of Homeland Security has embraced drones, how the list of public entities cleared to fly drones continues to grow, how the military uses drones and shares data with law enforcement, and how drones are used by National Guard units, just to mention a few concerning developments.

The Maine state Senate Judiciary Committee will be working through the bill Thursday, March 7 and is slated to hear from Mills during the process.

While Mills said in written testimony given to the committee last week that she supports the “intent” of the bill, she claimed that the language is too broad and as currently drafted “prohibits children from flying toy airplanes or deploying drones for news gathering, mapping, weather monitoring or private investigations,” according to the Herald.

One must ask, is it wrong to limit drones for news gathering, mapping or private investigations, all of which could include massive invasions of privacy?

Unfortunately, unless the activity is limited beforehand, the only recourse people would have is to sue the offender and most people don’t have the time or money to file an invasion of privacy lawsuit.

The ACLU reports that Maine is one of 30 states currently looking at regulation restricting the use of drones.

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2 Responses to Maine joins 29 other states considering legislation to restrict police use of drones

  1. Pingback: Maine joins 29 other states considering legislation to restrict police use of drones

  2. Anonymous March 9, 2013 at 2:04 PM

    Go Maine!!! Everyone should get active in their state supporting this type of legislation.


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