11 States Most Worried about Drones
State Drone Laws
Since early 2013, the momentum of creating state drone laws by setting regulations on surveillance drones and law enforcement UAVs has rapidly increased.
Below are 11 states that have restricted the use of drones to protect privacy of private citizens.
Date passed: Feb 2013
Virginia was the first state to pass regulations governing the use of drones. They voted that law enforcement agencies would not be allowed to use drones until July 2015. The only exception is in case of major disaster, Amber Alerts, or a search and rescue mission.
Date passed: April 2013
The Idaho drone law requires law enforcement to have a warrant to use UAVs to obtain evidence, except in cases where illegal drugs are involved or for emergencies like search and rescue or hostage standoffs. Also, provisions exist in the Idaho UAV regulation that protects personal privacy. Anyone who is monitored illegally with an unmanned aerial vehicle can file charges and is entitled damages.
Date passed: May 2013
Called the “Freedom of Unwarranted Surveillance Act”, the Tennessee law allows state and local law enforcement agencies to fly drones for surveillance purposes, but must have first obtained a search warrant to do so. The legislation allows the federal government to fly drones to “to counter a high risk of a terrorist attack by a specific individual or organization if the United States secretary of homeland security determines that credible intelligence indicates that there is such a risk.” In cases where there is an imminent danger to life, law enforcement agencies can skip the warrant approval process.
Date passed: July 2013
Oregon’s UAV law allows law enforcement agencies to use drones to track an individual fleeing a crime scene, to survey natural disasters, reconstruct crime scenes, and help with search and rescue. There are provisions for criminal charges against those that use drones for trespassing or violating personal property. It dictates that the state will govern use of drones, not local municipalities. Public bodies, such as universities, must register their drones and in January 2016 they will begin to report their drone use.
Date enacted: July 2013
The Florida drone law is descriptively called “Freedom from Unwanted Surveillance Act.” It’s a pretty simple bill, aimed primarily at limiting police drones and other law enforcement UAV use. Agencies can only use drones if there exists a risk of terrorist attack or other imminent danger or if they have a search engine.
Date passed: August 2013
Illinois calls it the “Freedom from Drone Surveillance Act.” As the name suggests, law enforcement agencies may not use drones to gather information, unless fighting a high risk of a terrorist attack or a search warrant has been obtained first. Drones may also be used to locate a missing person, take pictures of a crime scene or traffic crash scene, but only on public lands. Each law enforcement agency must annually publish a list of all drones it owns.
Date enacted: September 2013
The Texas drone law is unique from other states. It outlines a long list of situations where it is legal to capture images via UAV, including university research, private property with the consent of the owner, law enforcement situations such as search and rescue, pursuit of fleeing suspects, serious accident scenes and even private property that is generally open to the public and policed. Unlike other states, it allows for commercial drone use for real estate brokers (if no individual is shown), inspecting pipelines and related facilities, and port authority surveillance and protection.
Date passed: April 2014
No drone may be “weaponized” and anyone who sells, possesses or uses a weaponized drone will be guilty of a felony. Law enforcement agencies may not use drones to capture audio or video evidence or information in a criminal investigation without a search warrant. A law enforcement agency may use UAV without a search warrant in emergency situations, such as tracking an escaped prisoner, assist in search and rescue, or to prevent imminent danger or harm to a person or prevent destruction of evidence.
Date passed: April 2014
Utah’s legislation prevents law enforcement from using unmanned aerial vehicles for spying, unless a search warrant is obtained. Also, drones may not be used in scenarios where warrants are not necessary, such as where law enforcement helicopters are used (search-and-rescue, speed-enforcement operations, etc). State government agencies are required to report drone use to the public.
Date passed: June 2014
North Carolina was the first in flight (thanks Kitty Hawk!) and now wants to be first in drones. Like many other states, the NC State House Bill disallows surveillance of property or person without the owner’s consent. It does, however, allow for news gathering and use of drones to combat high risks such as terrorist attack or pressing danger of life or property.
There are a few unique parts of the bill, such as the rule that drones are prohibited from being used for hunting and fishing. It prevents citizens from using drones to help determine where to hunt or fish (spotting prey). Additionally, drones are only to be operated commercially after a license is obtained and not until the FAA has authorized the commercial use of drone.
Date enacted: July 2014
State agencies are prohibited from using drones for enforcing traffic laws. Additionally, information collected via UAVs won’t be allowed as evidence unless obtained through a search warrant or through complying with state and federal laws. The Department of Public Safety is required to work with agencies and interested parties to determine if changes should be made to address drone use in the future.
The new law also requires the Department of Public Safety to work with other agencies and interested parties to determine if changes should be made to Iowa’s criminal code to address unmanned aerial vehicle use.