A bill under consideration this year in the Colorado General Assembly would restrict the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) by government officials.

Introduced by State Senators Linda Newell and Kevin Lundberg, Senate Bill 15-059 (SB15-059) would require law enforcement to obtain a warrant before using a drone, or during specific emergency circumstances, such as a high risk of a terrorist attack determined by Homeland Security.

The bill also states that the drone cannot collect data on people or locations other than those in a warrant. It also bans drones from using facial recognition or other biometric-matching technology on people not included in the warrant. If they do obtain such data, they are required to destroy it within 14 days, though it does allow them to preserve it if it is later determined to give “reasonable suspicion” of evidence of criminal activity or related to an ongoing investigation.

When drones are used in emergency circumstances, it can only be done for 48 hours maximum, and 24 hours after initiating its use the head of the law enforcement agency must prepare a report regarding its use, which will be public record.

The bill also covers private use of drones, requiring them to comply with all flight rules and restricting their use to within the operator’s sight and no farther than three miles away and four hundred feet in the air. It must also be used during the day and at least five miles away from an airport or aviation-related activity (There are concerns that this would unwittingly ban RC aircrafts in the state).

The bill’s language specifically bars them from collecting any information obtained on anyone other than the person for whom the warrant was issued.

Tenth Amendment Center communications director Mike Maharrey has noted that bills such as this have significant ramifications at the federal level because Washington D.C. is pushing and funding drone use at the state level. He noted that 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 feds want to push these on the states, and if the states refuse, it’ll foil their plan,” he said. “They already spy on Americans so much that Rand Paul said it numbered in the ‘Gazillions’ after a secret meeting with intelligence officials. If the feds can get the states to start buying up and running drones over our cities, they’ll certainly want access to all that surveillance information in the future. It’s important that states begin drawing a line in the sand now – no aerial spying here.”

“If enough states pass bills like these, it’ll foil their plans before they ever take off.”


For Colorado: To support this bill, follow the steps at THIS LINK

All Other States: Take steps to stop warrantless drone spying HERE.

TJ Martinell