Hawaii bill would ban police drone use without a warrant

The bill would make exceptions for emergencies such as searches and rescues, hostage situations


By Marina Riker
Associated Press

HONOLULU — Hawaii lawmakers have introduced a bill that would ban police from using drones to gather evidence without a warrant.

The bill would make exceptions for emergencies such as searches and rescues, hostage situations and when there's an immediate danger to someone.

Lawmakers say the recreational and commercial use of drones, also known as unmanned aerial systems, has taken off in Hawaii throughout recent years, and new rules are needed to regulate how they're used.

Hawaii lawmakers are not alone — legislators across the country are considering how to regulate the new technology.

In 2015, 45 states considered bills and 20 passed laws on topics ranging from drone use in farming to addressing paparazzi, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Over a dozen states have passed laws addressing how police use drones.

"Drones are becoming very popular, and not only for recreational use," said Democratic Sen. Will Espero, who introduced the bill. "With this newfound popularity we need to make sure that we have rules and regulations."

Honolulu Police Department spokeswoman Sarah Yoro said right now, the police department doesn't use drones, but Espero said he introduced the bill with future use in mind.

"I believe many residents are asking for guidance, especially when it comes to privacy and making sure that they're used properly without invading our homes," Espero said.

Espero's bill would also set rules for average citizens, banning them from flying within 5 miles of an airport or above 400 feet. It would also ban using drones to collect personal information without written consent, adding weapons to drones and operating them while intoxicated.

Another law introduced this session would make it a felony if a person intentionally used a drone to take photos or video of someone while naked or engaging in sexual activity. Several states including Mississippi and Arkansas have introduced similar bills, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Meanwhile, another bill would ban flying drones within 500 feet of a residential property without the property owner's consent.

"I think it's an exciting technology," said Rep. Cindy Evans, who introduced a regulate drone use. "This isn't about trying to stop them as much as making sure that our privacy is protected."

In 2013, Hawaii became one of a few locations in the country to be designated as a drone testing site for the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA is using the regional test sites research how to safely integrate drones into U.S. airspace.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press

Associated Press
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