States pass UAS privacy, economic, law enforcement rules

By UAS Magazine Staff | October 15, 2014

Twenty states have passed laws on unmanned aircraft system (UAS) issues ranging from their use by law enforcement to what defines an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“State legislatures across the country are debating if and how UAS technology should be regulated, taking into account the benefits of their use, privacy concerns and their potential economic impact,” the NCSL reports.

The organization says that the laws passed address UAS issues, which include their use by the public, hunting game and Federal Aviation Administration UAS test sites. Another 35 states are considering UAS-related measures.

The NCSL says laws passed by states in 2014 include:

Iowa: HF 2289 makes it illegal for a state agency to use a UAS to enforce traffic laws requiring a warrant or other lawful means, or to use information obtained with UAS in a civil or criminal court proceeding. It also requires the department of public safety to develop guidelines for the use of UAS and to determine whether changes to the criminal code are necessary.

Indiana: HB 1009 creates warrant requirements and exceptions for the police use of unmanned aircraft and real-time geo location tracking devices. It also prohibits law enforcement from compelling individuals to reveal passwords for electronic devices without a warrant. It also makes "unlawful photography and surveillance on private property" a Class A misdemeanor.

Louisiana: HB 1029 makes the unlawful use of an unmanned aircraft system a crime, defining it as the intentional use of a UAS to conduct surveillance of a targeted facility without the owner’s prior written consent.

Ohio: HB 292 creates an aerospace and aviation technology committee to research and develop aviation technology, including unmanned aerial vehicles. 

Tennessee: HB 1777 makes it a class C misdemeanor for any private entity to use a drone to conduct video surveillance of a person who is hunting or fishing, without their consent.  SB 1892 makes it a Class C misdemeanor for a person to use UAS to intentionally conduct surveillance of an individual or their property. It also makes it a crime to possess those images (Class C misdemeanor) or distribute and otherwise use them (Class B misdemeanor).  The law also identifies 18 lawful uses of UAS, including the commercial use of UAS under FAA regulations, professional or scholarly research and for use in oil pipeline and well safety.

Utah: SB 167 regulates the use of UAS by state government entities, requiring a warrant is for a law enforcement agency to “obtain, receive or use data” derived from the use of UAS. The law also establishes standards for when it is acceptable for an individual or other non governmental entity to submit data to law enforcement. It provides standards for law enforcement’s collection, use, storage, deletion and maintenance of data. It requires law enforcement to submit an annual report on its use to the Department of Public Safety and also to publish the report on the individual agency’s website.  The law is not intended to “prohibit or impede the public and private research, development or manufacture of unmanned aerial vehicles.”

Wisconsin: SB 196 requires law enforcement to obtain a warrant before using drones in a place where an individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy. The law also specifies as crimes possession of a weaponized drone and use of a drone.

A study conducted earlier this year by Embry-Riddle College of Aeronautics professors David Ison, Brent Terwilliger and Dennis Vincenzi found that as a result of state and local governments passing their own laws, UAS stakeholders are facing a “changing regulatory landscape, further complicating research and development of their systems.”

The study also concluded that UAS measures have added a layer of regulation that complicates the manufacturer and operator landscape. It recommends further study to track legislation and implications for the UAS industry.