So far in 2014, 35 states have considered UAS or UAV (also commonly called drones) bills and resolutions. Five states - Iowa, Indiana, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin - have enacted new laws.
State UAS Legislation
Iowa enacted HF 2289, making it illegal for a state agency to use a UAS to enforce traffic laws. The new law requires a warrant, or other lawful means, to use information obtained with UAS in a civil or criminal court proceeding. It also requires the department of public safety to develop guidelines for the use of UAS and to determine whether changes to the criminal code are necessary. The department must report on their findings to the general assembly by Dec. 31, 2014.
Indiana is the first state to enact a UAS law in 2014. HB 1009 creates warrant requirements and exceptions for the police use of unmanned aircraft and real time geo-location tracking devices. It also prohibits law enforcement from compelling individuals to reveal passwords for electronic devices without a warrant. If law enforcement obtains information from an electronic service provider pursuant to a warrant, the provider is immune from criminal or civil liability. The law provides that if police seek a warrant to compel information from media entities and personnel, then those individuals must be notified and given the opportunity to be heard by the court concerning issuance of the warrant. The new law also creates the crime of "Unlawful Photography and Surveillance on Private Property," making it a Class A misdemeanor. This crime is committed by a person who knowingly and intentionally electronically surveys the private property of another without permission. The law also requests that the state's legislative council study digital privacy during the 2014 interim.
Louisiana enacted HB 1029, creating the crime of unlawful use of an unmanned aircraft system. The new law defines the unlawful use of an unmanned aircraft system as the intentional use of a UAS to conduct surveillance of a targeted facility without the owner’s prior written consent. The crime is punishable by a fine of up to 500 dollars and imprisonment for six months. A second offense can be punished by a fine up to 1000 dollars and one year imprisonment.
Ohio enacted HB 292 creating the aerospace and aviation technology committee. One of the committee’s duties is to research and develop aviation technology including unmanned aerial vehicles.
Tennessee has enacted two new laws in 2014. The first, SB 1777, makes it a class C misdemeanor for any private entity to use a drone to conduct video surveillance of a person who is hunting or fishing without their consent. SB 1892 makes it a Class C misdemeanor for a person to use UAS to intentionally conduct surveillance of an individual or their property. It also makes it a crime to possess those images (Class C Misdemeanor) or distribute and otherwise use them (Class B Misdemeanor). The law also identifies 18 lawful uses of UAS, including the commercial use of UAS under FAA regulations, professional or scholarly research and for use in oil pipeline and well safety.
Utah enacted SB 167, regulating the use of UAS by state government entities. A warrant is now required for a law enforcement agency to “obtain, receive or use data” derived from the use of UAS. The law also establishes standards for when it is acceptable for an individual or other non-governmental entity to submit data to law enforcement. The new law provides standards for law enforcement’s collection, use, storage, deletion and maintenance of data. If a law enforcement agency uses UAS, the measure requires that agency submit an annual report on their use to the Department of Public Safety and also to publish the report on the individual agency’s website. The new law notes that it is not intended to “prohibit or impede the public and private research, development or manufacture of unmanned aerial vehicles.”
Wisconsin enacted SB 196, requiring law enforcement to obtain a warrant before using drones in a place where an individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy. The law also creates two new crimes; “possession of a weaponized drone” and “use of a drone.” Use of a drone creates a class A misdemeanor for a person who, with intent, observes another individual in a place where they have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Possession of a weaponized drone is a class H felony.