By Brian Hoops

When drones fly, do privacy rights die?

Alaskan State Rep. Pete Higgins doesn’t think so. On the heels of Alaska being chosen as one of the six site locations for UAV testing, Higgins introduced two bills to place parameters around the operation of drones.

HB 209 seeks to clarify the procedures for drone use by law enforcement, requiring a warrant in most cases.

Additionally, Higgins and three co-sponsors introduced HB 225 addressing the capturing of images during the usage of UAVs

Policymakers, individuals, and manufacturers have differed as to the affects these test locations will have on privacy. Ultimately, these six test sites must comply with privacy requirements set forth in the FAA Draft Privacy Requirements Statement as well as local regulations.

Now, as the FAA readies the airways for drone usage, state legislatures must take positive steps to ensure privacy rights remain firmly intact.

Alaska’s HB 209 puts clear limitations on the use of drones by law enforcement: is there an emergency involving imminent danger of death or serious physical harm, or imminent and substantial damage to property? No? Then put down your drone and get a warrant.

The legislation also makes evidence collected by a drone without a warrant inadmissible in court, and bans the use of armed drones by any person.

Alaska HB 225 puts in place two additional security checks on law enforcement drone usage; one requirement establishes an auditable flight record system, and the other precludes the retention of images captured by drones, unless the images are used for an investigation, training, or allowed by state, local, or federal ordinance.

In the years to come, drone surveillance will be an ever-increasing concern, especially when the feds begin to pass off their used toys to the states through military grants. Think that sort of move is a long way off? Check out the free MRAPs the feds bequeath to municipalities, both small and large.

In fact, the federal government serves as the primary engine behind the expansion of drone surveillance carried out by states and local communities. The Department of Homeland Security issues large grants to local governments so they can purchase drones. Those grants, in and of themselves, represent 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.


If you live in Alaska: Click HERE to find out what steps you can take to support HB209

If you live in another state: Visit the Tenth Amendment Action Center to see what action you can take to limit drone use in your state HERE.

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