Military affairs beat: Minn. among 9 states wrestling with legislation on drones

  • Article by: MARK BRUNSWICK , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 19, 2013 - 7:42 PM

Drones continue to come home. Nine states, including Minnesota, are working on domestic drone legislation, and a Government Accountability report released last week raises questions about where the federal government is in opening up the skies domestically.

If you need further evidence of how drones are invading our everyday life, there is now a Drone Journalism Lab, a product of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s College of Journalism and Mass Communications.

The American Civil Liberties Union reports that the domestic drone legislation that is perhaps the furthest along is in Florida, where a bill would ban drones with exceptions for certain emergencies, suspected terrorism and surveillance that’s been approved by a judge. The measure is moving through the Legislature even as law enforcement has suggested there should be exceptions to allow monitoring of crowds at things like football games, which, in Florida, often translates into civil disturbance.

Last year, we went to North Dakota to see how the domestic drone debate was playing out. At the time, the federal government was trying to come up with rules and regulations to control the use of drones in domestic airspace. Current domestic use of drones is limited to activities such as law enforcement, search and rescue, forensic photography, border security, weather research and the collection of scientific data.

But drones have a future in everything from pipeline safety to monitoring crops to film production to the real estate industry. The Federal Aviation Administration estimates that about 30,000 drones will be flying over the United States in the next 10 years.

Last week, the Government Accountability Office released a report that said the FAA has made progress but still faces challenges. North Dakota hopes to become one of six test sites for drones, known in military parlance as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, but that process is being delayed by privacy concerns. Other concerns: Drones have yet to successfully develop a “sense-and-avoid” technology to keep from hitting other aircraft.

 

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