Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe is siding with police and other law enforcement officials who say they should not have to get a warrant before using drone aircraft. But a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers is pushing for more oversight.
Right now, Virginia’s skies are free from drones from police departments. A temporary moratorium is in place while state lawmakers and McAuliffe administration officials work on a deal.
The latest offer from the General Assembly would ban the use of drones without a warrant, but getting a warrant is too much of a hassle, says state Homeland Security Secretary Brian Moran.
“The courts may be closed. It may not be practical. You are talking about trying to save lives immediately. There’s a press for time in that situation,” Moran says, echoing the concerns of police and law enforcement leaders.
But Claire Gastanaga of the American Civil Liberties Union says the bill already has exceptions for emergencies, and she worries that an innocent municipal drone could end up being misused by law enforcement.
“What they want to do is they want to be able put a drone in the air for traffic surveillance and if they see something they want to use that evidence even though they didn’t have a warrant in a criminal case,” she says.
At issue is whether or not the drones are revealing what’s in “plain sight.” Moran says that should be the standard.
“If an officer were to obtain evidence without a warrant in any other circumstances, you could use it if it was in plain sight,” he says.
He says he’s concerned about setting up a new category for unmanned aerial vehicles.
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com