Drone law protects civil liberty

Alan Bates

Sen. Alan Bates

It’s usually in news stories about foreign conflicts that we hear about the use of drones, aircraft that can be automated or remotely controlled by someone located thousands of miles away. It might surprise you, then, that in recent years drones have become much more common right here in Oregon.

Many folks โ€” including myself โ€” have a healthy amount of skepticism about the use of drones in our state. At a recent hearing in Salem, my colleagues heard that the latest drone technology can provide surveillance without being detected, and they’re often not subject to the legal safeguards (such as search warrants) as other surveillance methods.

Rather than everyone putting their heads in the sand about drones, we took action this session by passing a bill that ensures law enforcement agencies obtain a warrant before using a drone in non-emergency situations, requires drones used by public entities to be registered with the Department of Aviation, and bans the use of weaponized drones. The bill also sets a basic expectation of property rights when it comes to drones, so that a search warrant is required for surveillance outside your living room window, for example.

For better or worse, drones are used for everything from crop maintenance to police investigation โ€” and they’re likely here to stay. Sometimes, our laws don’t keep up with major innovations in technology. But this time, I’m proud to report we’ve passed a law that keeps pace, protects our privacy and safeguards our civil liberties.

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