Since drones became “a thing,” 43 states have introduced more than 150 bills and resolutions affecting the UAV industry. In 2013, 13 states enacted 16 laws. As 2014 draws to a close, the National Conference of State Legislature‘s numbers are coming in. This year, 35 states debated UAV regulations, with 11 states enacting or changing their drone laws.
In April, Alaska enacted HCR 15 which extended the life and responsibilities of Alaska’s Legislative Task Force on Unmanned Aircraft Systems.
In September, the state of Alaska passed HB 255 which regulates the use of unmanned aircraft by law enforcement. The law included protocols on record retention for data obtained by drones. Under HB 255, police must provide training certification for its pilots; obtain proper FAA authorization for each flight and maintain a log of all flights. The National Conference of State Legislatures adds: “Police may use UAS pursuant to a search warrant, pursuant to a judicially recognized exception to the warrant requirement and in situations not involving a criminal investigation.” The law also authorizes the University of Alaska to develop a training program for operating UAS.
In September, California governor Ed Brown signed into law AB 2306 which amends existing privacy laws to prohibit anybody from using a drone to take pictures of a person “under circumstances in which [they] had a reasonable expectation of privacy,” and where said picture could not have been taken without trespassing if the drone hadn’t been used.
The Land of Lincoln passed SB 2937, a similar measure to Alaska’s new law, that requires police to adhere to search-warrant regulations already in place when using drones. However, the use of drones by law enforcement during a natural disaster or health emergency will be loosened.
In 2013, the Prairie State passed laws banning harassment of hunters by drones as well as requiring warrants for most police use of UAVs. The law took an added step by requiring the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority (CJIA) to “publish on its publicly available website a concise report that lists every law enforcement agency that owns a drone, and for each of those agencies, the number of drones that it owns.”
The Hoosier state passed HB 1009 early in 2014 – the law “creates warrant requirements and exceptions for the police use of unmanned aircraft and real time geo-location tracking devices.” The law adds “Unlawful Photography and Surveillance on Private Property” as a new Class A misdemeanor and is defined as “knowingly and intentionally electronically [surveying] the private property of another without permission.”
As reported in DRONELIFE in April, an Iowa Senate bill prohibits “state or local law enforcement authorities from using unmanned aerial vehicles for traffic enforcement [and] states that evidence obtained by law enforcement using an unmanned aerial vehicle is not admissible in a criminal or civil trial unless it was obtained legally pursuant to a search warrant or in a manner that is consistent with state and federal law.” The bill was signed into law in May, 2014.
The Louisiana State Senate failed to pass legislation in April that would have implemented extensive drone regulation in the Bayou State. However, the state did enact HB 1029, creating the “crime of unlawful use of [a UAV].” Unlawful use is defined as conducting “surveillance of a targeted facility without the owner’s prior written consent and is punishable by a fine of up to $500 dollars and six months of jail time.
N.C. House Bill 1099 passed into law in June and will be in full effect no later than May 2015.
The bill, which received bipartisan support, prohibits: Damage or disruption of any manned aircraft operations via drones; possession or deployment of a drone armed with any weapons. Pilots may not photograph or conduct surveillance on any persons using a drone or publish drone-recorded photos without consent (unless the photos are recorded at “newsworthy events or events to which the public is invited”). The bill also authorizes law enforcement to deploy drones to conduct surveillance with a warrant; deploy drones to stop potential terrorist attacks; curtail “imminent danger to life or serious damage to property;” stop the escape of a suspect; search for a missing person; and record public gatherings on public or private property.
One key provision of the law went into effect in December and bars animal-rights activists such as PETA from using drones to monitor hunters.
HB 292 creates the state’s first aerospace and aviation technology committee which will research and develop aviation technology including UAVs.
The Volunteer State, like other states, is cracking down on surveillance of hunters with SB 1777, a new law that makes it a class C misdemeanor to use drone-captured video footage of a hunter or angler being without their consent. SB 1892 outlaws using a drone to “intentionally conduct surveillance of an individual or their property” and prohibits the possession or distribution of images captured in such a manner.
Signed into law in April, SB 167 says Utah police must have a warrant to “obtain, receive or use data” from a drone. The law also establishes standards under which law enforcement may store and retain imagery from drones.
Like Utah, Wisconsin’s SB 196 requires law enforcement to “obtain a warrant before using drones in a place where an individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy.” Weaponizing a drone is considered a felony.
Jason is a longstanding contributor to DroneLife with an avid interest in all things tech. He focuses on anti-drone technologies and the public safety sector; police, fire, and search and rescue.
Beginning his career as a journalist in 1996, Jason has since written and edited thousands of engaging news articles, blog posts, press releases and online content.
Subscribe to DroneLife here.