SALEM — As the nation debates the use of drones to hunt terrorism suspects abroad, Oregon lawmakers are considering legislation that would regulate how drones could be used here.
The Oregon Legislature will consider three drone-related bills this session. One of them goes before the Senate Judiciary Committee today. The bill would require law enforcement agencies to obtain a criminal warrant before using drones for surveillance of private property, in all but emergency circumstances.
State or local government bodies would be required to register with the state Department of Aviation to fly an unmanned aircraft in Oregon’s skies.
The legislation is intended to ensure residents’ privacy.
Under current law, anyone can own a drone if they have a license from the Federal Aviation Administration. But extremely tight federal regulations and an extensive application process make it very difficult for the average person to obtain a flying permit. Bills regulating the use of drones are popping up around the country because Congress wants to streamline this application process and make it easier for public bodies to use domestic drones.
Among its provisions, the Oregon bill up for a hearing Wednesday would impose penalties on private citizens who use drones to eavesdrop, wiretap, stalk or trespass. It also makes killing game with a drone a crime.
Sen. Floyd Prozanksi, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said the bill is intended to prevent the “misuse of drones” by citizens and law enforcement. The Eugene Democrat said more amendments will be introduced, and one would protect hobbyists who fly model aircraft from unnecessary penalties.
Rep. John Huffman, R-The Dalles, has introduced a measure that would require law enforcement agencies to erase all data collected by a drone within 30 days if no criminal activity was recorded.
“I just want to make sure that people’s rights are held intact when law enforcement agencies use drones,” he said. “But I’m not trying to restrict the use of drones.”
He said the ACLU, law enforcement agencies and industry representatives provided input for his bill. A similar bill has been introduced in the Senate by Chip Shields, a Democrat from Portland.