A New Hampshire bill to strictly limit drone use passed out of the state House on a voice vote on Wednesday. It now moves on to the Senate for consideration.

HB1620 would regulate the use of drones by governments, as well as individuals. It would require search warrants to use for surveillance and levy fines for violations.  It also bans lethal or nonlethal arming of drones in the state.

The legislation defines “government” as “federal, state, and local agencies and departments and any political subdivisions thereof, including employees, agents, and contractors.”

The bill passed the House on a voice vote, meaning there was little if any opposition.

The legislation fully prohibits drone use by any government with just a few exceptions. These include a duly issued warrant, “to counter a high risk of a terrorist attack” if the Department of Homeland Security determines such a threat to exist,” “If law enforcement “possesses reasonable suspicion that…swift action is needed to prevent imminent danger to life or serious damage to property,” and if the agency has prior written consent. In short, daily, general use of drones by government in New Hampshire would be stopped.

HB1620 puts restrictions on information gathered even under those exceptions.

If a government uses a drone under this paragraph, it shall within 24 hours permanently destroy all information gathered by the drone other than that relating directly to the purpose for which the warrant was obtained or to which the judicially-recognized exception to the warrant requirement applied.

While some might find the exceptions written into the legislation troubling, passage of HB1620 would be a huge improvement over the status quo. As things stand today, government entities and individuals can operate drones with no restrictions.

Not only does the bill directly prohibit the federal government from flying drones over New Hampshire expect for specific circumstances, it would also serve to put the brakes on more general federal plans to expand drone use across the U.S.

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.

LEGISLATION AND TRACKING

If you live in New Hampshire: Click HERE to find out what steps you can take to support HB1620

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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