House Committee Delays Vote on Drone Use

Mar 3, 2015

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The sponsor of a proposal to put guardrails around the use of drones for non- government purposes asked lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee to delay a vote on the bill on Tuesday.

“I would work with members of the committee to make sure it truly protects the privacy of people in the state,” said Representative Polly Lawrence (R-Roxborough Park).

After nearly two hours of testimony that focused on emerging technologies and a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy, many lawmakers said still they had questions about the bill.

“I’m just concerned this is so broadly written,” said Representative Daniel Kagan (D-Denver), who chairs the judiciary committee.

As originally written, House Bill 1115 [.pdf] would have prohibited using a drone to track another person in a public place, with the intent to harass, annoy or alarm. It also restricted an individual from using drones to take pictures and observe someone who has a reasonable expectation of privacy. But Lawrence offered a last minute amendment to change the wording on the bill to broaden it out to any type of artificial, mechanical or electronic device.

Kagan called it a terrible sweeping measure.

“If I take a photograph of a person in circumstances in which a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy I am now a criminal,” said Kagan. “That strikes me as an extraordinarily dangerous law to pass; to criminalize photography.”

Others thought that the bill would apply to all cameras including from cell phones. Meanwhile, representatives from the drone industry said they didn’t want to narrow the language.

“Technology should be agnostic,” said Allen Bishop the president of Reference Technologies in Lafayette. His company manufactures drones. “The delivery mechanism should be agnostic. If you’re going to couple the two together that’s where industry could take an enormous hit.”

Lawmakers did not specify when they would vote on the bill. A Democratic measure to restrict how law enforcement officers use drones failed in its first committee in the Senate. Meanwhile Federal Aviation Administration recently released draft rules to govern drones.