In response to the proliferation of drone technology and the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) expanding list of certified drone users, Senator Robert Hedlund and Representative Colleen Garry of Massachusetts have introduced dual bills (collectively known as The Drone Privacy Act) in an attempt to regulate the use of such unmanned aerial vehicles in the state.
In addition to the wholesale ban on the use of weaponized drone technology, provisions of the bill construct strict limitations upon the use of drones for both public safety and law enforcement purposes. In the event that a drone is necessary for law enforcement purposes, government and police officials are required to obtain a warrant with probable cause before any deployment of drones can take place. Conversely, the bills would permit the use of drones in instances where information is obtained without the intent of future usage in criminal proceedings. Furthermore, drone use will remain allowable in exigent circumstances, including emergencies when a danger to human life or safety is believed to be imminent.
Speaking on the proposed legislation, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Massachusetts states that while:
The word “drone” conjures images of conflicts across the globe, remote controlled aerial technology is increasingly of interest to local law enforcement too. While the FAA will regulate drones’ use of airspace, it is up to state lawmakers to ensure that this emerging technology is used responsibly in Massachusetts–without weapons, of course, and not for warrantless surveillance of residents.
The unregulated use of drones has been an area of intense conflict between the government and privacy advocates, who have criticized drones as a mode of surveillance that is unnecessarily intrusive and invasive. Championed by a Republican Senator and a Democratic Representative in an era of ideological entrenchment, the two bills highlight the bipartisan nature of current stances and worries towards the deployment of drone technologies by public and private entities.
In addition to the bills sponsored by Senator Hedlund and Representative Garry, three other pieces of legislation have been introduced in Massachusetts that similarly focuses on the promotion of privacy rights. The Drone Privacy Act is particularly salient in the context of current debates over the regulation of unmanned aerial vehicles, and represents one of many attempts across the nation to curb their usage.
If you are a Massachusetts resident, you can ask your legislator to co-sponsor these bills online.
If you are not a Massachusetts resident, numerous other states have introduced similar proposals in their legislatures; check if your state legislature is considering such a bill, and take action by calling your own state representatives.