SALEM, Ore – Last Monday, the Oregon Senate passed an amended version of a bill that would nullify drone use without a warrant in all but a few cases.

HB2710 “Provides that drones may be used by law enforcement agency for purpose of surveillance of persons only pursuant to a warrant or in emergency circumstances. Provides that law enforcement agencies may use drones to intercept communications only as provided under laws relating to wiretaps other interceptions of communications. Requires destruction of images and other information acquired by use of drone within 30 days.”

The bill also outlaws weaponized drones.

The House passed its version of the bill 52-7 on April 15. The Senate passed the amended version 23-5.

The amendments broaden the scope of the bill by requiring any public body operating a drone to register with the Oregon Dept. of Aviation, and by criminalizing the use of a drone to interfere with another aircraft and hacking into a drone. The amended bill would also  allow property owners to seek damages from anyone operating a drone less than 400 feet above their property.

Senate amendment also make exceptions more explicit, allowing police to use drones if they have “probable cause to believe that a crime committed at the time the drone is used and exigent circumstances exist that make reasonable for the law enforcement agency to obtain a warrant authorizing use, or if the law enforcement agency has probable cause to believe that the targeted intends to commit a crime and circumstances exist that prevent the law enforcement acquiring a warrant, authorizing use of a drone, before the time at which enforcement agency believes the crime will be committed.” Police could also use drones to track an individual fleeing the scene of a crime.

According to an article in the Oregonian:

The Oregon National Guard operates military drone exercises in the state and a burgeoning drone industry has developed in the Columbia River Gorge. Both interests, as well as hobbyists who fly model aircraft, are largely exempt from regulation under the bill.

On June 12, the house refused to concur with the Senate version, and the bill will now move on to a conference committee.

While the exceptions for drone use raise legitimate concerns, as things exist today  Oregonians have no protections against drone surveillance. Law enforcement agencies in Oregon can use drones any time, anywhere, with absolutely no parameters. If HB2710 becomes law, drone use will be extremely limited and circumscribed.

Without action by the Oregon legislature, the only thing keeping the Beaver State from turning into a  full-fledged drone surveillance state is a little funding.

And that’s coming down the pike.

The Drone Game

At this stage in the ‘drone game,’ the feds are working hard behind the scenes to get states to operate the drones for them.

In fact, the primary engine behind the expansion of drone surveillance being carried out by states and local communities is the Federal government itself. The Department of Homeland Security issues large grants to local governments so that those agencies can purchase drones. Those grants, in and of themselves, are an unconstitutional expansion of power.

The goal? Fund a network of drones around the country and put the operational burden on the states. Once they create a web over the whole country, DHS steps in with requests for ‘information sharing.’ Bills like these put a dent in this kind of long-term strategy. Without the states and local communities operating the drones today, it’s going to be nearly impossible for DHS plans to – take off.

In fact, this has been as much as confirmed by a drone industry lobbyist who testified in opposition to a similar bill in Washington State, saying that such restrictions would be extremely destructive to the drone market and industry.

Mike Maharrey

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