Thousands of civilian drones are expected in U.S. skies within a few years and concerns they could be used to spy on Americans are fueling legislative efforts in several states to regulate the unmanned aircraft.
Varied legislation involving drones was introduced this year in more than 40 states, including Ohio. Many of those bills seek to regulate law enforcement’s use of information-gathering drones by requiring search warrants. Some bills have stalled or are still pending, but at least six states now require warrants, and Virginia has put a two-year moratorium on drone use by law enforcement to provide more time to develop guidelines.
Domestic drones often resemble the small radio-controlled model airplanes and helicopters flown by hobbyists and can help monitor floods and other emergencies, survey crops and assist search-and-rescue operations. But privacy advocates are worried because the aircraft can also carry cameras and other equipment to capture images of people and property.
“Right now police can’t come into your house without a search warrant,” said Ohio Rep. Rex Damschroder, who has proposed drone regulations. “But with drones, they can come right over your backyard and take pictures.”