Drone legislation a concern nationwide

CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – The increased use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), more commonly known as drones, has federal and state legislators working to create regulations that will be fair to businesses and law enforcement while protecting privacy for private citizens.

In Massachusetts, a bill is currently being considered that would require law enforcement to obtain warrants before using drones. A warrant would limit surveillance and collection of information to the person named. Currently there are 39 states with UAV laws that require a warrant.

The Massachusetts law would ban collecting information about “people’s political, social or religious views, associations or activities of any individual, group, association, organization, corporation, business or partnership or other entity unless such information relates directly to investigation of criminal activity and there are reasonable grounds to suspect the subject of the information is involved in criminal conduct.” There will also be limitations on how long the data can be stored before it is deleted.

The law states that the UAV must comply with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requirements and guidelines and strictly forbids them to be equipped with weapons.

Massachusetts Senator Edward Markey has been at the forefront of UAV regulation for many years and is concerned with the privacy and safety of the public. In addition to the information gathering issues there are the issues of aircraft maintenance and training and licensing of operators.

The technology attached to the vehicles is changing rapidly. Some carry facial recognition software, infrared technology and audio instruments that pick up personal conversations.

Civil liberties groups are concerned about privacy and the conflict between federal and state laws. If the federal government is conducting surveillance in Massachusetts, do they have to comply with the state law? Who has precedence?

State Senator Gale Candaras is on the Joint Committee on Transportation. Her office sent 22News this update on the drone law. “S.1664 ‘An act to regulate the use of unmanned aerial vehicles’ has received a study recommendation from the Joint Committee on Transportation. As a result, it is unlikely that the bill will come before the Legislature for a vote this session.”

If you’re concerned about the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, contact your state and federal representatives about legislating regulation.

Here are some links with information on unmanned aerial vehicles:

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