Lawmakers Talk Drones
July 20, 2012 by Sam Rolley
In a little more than two years, United States airspace will be “dominated” by unmanned aerial drones, according to one lawmaker.
On Thursday, the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations and Management held a hearing on the increasing use of drones domestically, raising questions about how the Nation should prepare.
Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) in his opening statements said he believes that the Department of Homeland Security should be more involved in preparing for the drones to become an airborne fixture.
“The Department of Homeland Security mission is to protect the homeland. Unfortunately, DHS seems either disinterested or unprepared to step up to the plate to address the proliferation of Unmanned Aerial Systems in US air space, the potential threats they pose to our national security, and the concerns of our citizens of how drones flying over our cities will be used including protecting civil liberties of individuals under the Constitution,” he said.
McCaul isn’t the only one worried about how drones are going to impact Americans in the next few years. C. Todd Gilbert (R), a Delegate in the Virginia Legislature, has teamed up with the American Civil Liberties Union to draft and introduce a bill to strictly regulate the use of spy drones in his State.
His bill would enact legislation to ban all government and government-sponsored use of drones except where:
there are specific and stated reasons to believe that a drone will collect evidence relating to a specific instance of criminal wrongdoing and where the government has obtained a warrant based on probable cause; or
there is a geographically confined, time-limited emergency situation in which particular people’s lives are at risk, such as a fire, hostage crisis, or land or water-based search and rescue operation; or
the drone is used for reasonable non-law enforcement purposes by non-law enforcement agencies, where privacy will not be substantially affected, such as geological inspections or environmental surveys, and where the surveillance will not be used for secondary law enforcement purposes or enforcement of administrative regulations.
As drones become ever more cheaply produced and stealthy, the ACLU urges lawmakers in other States to take similar action.