Drone Bill Gets Unanimous Approval

A Senate bill authorizing the lawful use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), known as drones, passed unanimously Monday in the Criminal Justice committee.

The bill, SB1178, is being sponsored by Sen. Garrett Richter (R). Richter says the aim of the bill is an attempt to determine how drones should be used legally in an industry that currently has little to no monitoring.

“The legislature cannot stop technology,” Richter said during the meeting. “What we can do is responsibly regulate that technology. Drone technology is a specific example of that.”

SB1178 will allow the use of drones for 22 different professional purposes. Under this bill, drones can lawfully be used for agriculture monitoring, real estate, and even disaster rescue intelligence.

Supporters argue that this bill will also benefit the state economically. Many people who spoke during the meeting are in the UAV trade.

“There’s almost no industry that can’t positively benefit from the use of unmanned aerial vehicles,” Stephen Myers, owner of Angel Eyes UAV, said.

Some committee members voiced their concerns for what most people worry about regarding drones —privacy.

“I do support your bill,” Sen. Audrey Gibson (D) said right before the final vote. “It was just trying to come to understand and then make sure that we do protect people’s privacy. I think that is the number 1 issue, certainly not to impede any economic benefits.”

With this bill in place, there is a possibility that drones could be used for surveying land or buildings on university campuses. But for many students, privacy concerning drones is a simple matter of respect.

“I’m against it no matter what it’s for. I should be notified or better yet asked for permission,” Kia Allen, a sophomore nursing student at Florida A&M University, said.

Privacy and the prevention of images of people taken without their permission is the main arguing point for non-supporters of drone use. This bill allows for some exceptions to the 22 approved uses. These exceptions include military use and exercises and pictures used to for mapping purposes.

A similar bill, H649, has been approved in the House of Representatives and will next be presented to the full House.

The Senate drone surveillance bill, having been approved, will now go to vote in the Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice.