The Orlando Sentinel reports that the use of drones by police in Florida will soon be restricted to very specific situations. Legislation that prohibits the use of drones for video and audio surveillance has now passed a second Senate committee, and law enforcement agencies are not happy.
The bill, created by republican Senator Joe Negron, bans all surveillance drones in Florida. However, an amendment makes it legal to use surveillance drones after a warrant has been issued or in extenuating circumstances such as in hostage situations or when there is a terrorist threat.
Orange County Sheriff captain Mike Fewless said they’ve already bought two small drones for $50,000 that he wants to use for large crowd surveillance.
Negron’s opinion is that helicopters offer enough video surveillance already, they are legal, and can be heard quite easily – there is no expectation of privacy with a helicopter circling above. While drones cost much less than helicopters, and are not as irritating, they are undercover surveillance vehicles. With wingspans of only 32 inches, these surveillance drones can easily hover in backyards, by people’s windows, anywhere, and there does not seem to be a law thus far that prevents drones from getting too close.
Negron is eager for his bill to pass. He thinks it will.
No other states have laws restricting video surveillance drones, although that will change. In the next few years there will be a surge of pilotless aircrafts, funded by security organizations all over the US. As a result, regulations affecting our privacy will need to be changed, and it will be interesting to listen to the arguments on both sides.