State Lawmakers Test the Waters on Drone Regulation

April 3, 2013 | Andy Cush

As the media profile of and sense of inevitability surrounding domestic drone use continues to grow, many states are weighing legislation that would oversee and regulate their use. As the ACLU points out in a blog post, anti-drone bills have been introduced in at least 30 state legislatures, including the New York State Assembly.

A bill introduced by Bronx Assemblyman Luis Sepúlveda would require police to obtain a warrant before using drones to collect evidence, and Brooklyn Assemblyman Nick Perry introduced similar legislation that would also allow surveilled people to seek civil recourse from the government.

In the Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf points to a Rhode Island bill that’s among the most far-reaching in the country and may provide a blueprint for responsible drone regulation worldwide. The proposal offers warrant and civil action provisions similar to those in the New York bills, but augments them with several more robust rules. Under the legislation, no drones could be equipped with weapons, law enforcement could not purchase or receive new drones without approval from elected officials, and data collected during a drone investigation couldn’t be saved and used for purposes not directly related to the investigation. There’s a slew of other good provisions as well.

If Bloomberg is right and we might as well accept our impending drone future, we’d do well to take a page from the Ocean State and beef up our own well-intended but paltry bills.

(Photo: U.S. Navy/Wikimedia Commons)