Bill would restrict police use of drones in Alabama

Montgomery, Ala. (WIAT) - Drones offer the government high tech surveillance capabilities, but may also represent an unprecedented invasion of privacy. Some state lawmakers want to put restrictions on how the unmanned aerial vehicles could be used by police.

Remote controlled quadcopters which are popular with hobbyists can be outfitted with cameras. Unmanned aerial vehicles or drones come in all shapes and sizes. By some reports the government funded the development of one that looks exactly like ahummingbird.
The FAA already has some rules for remote controlled airplane clubs when it comes to drones.

“Flying with the goggles on and not being able to look at the aircraft and the ruling that they came up with – that everyone was happy with, was you have to have a spotter that can actually visually see the aircraft at all times even though you can’t and that it needs to be done in an area that’s a sanctioned area or a sanctioned event,” said Bo Lovell, Oak Mountain Hobbies.  “As far as I know the infrared is not available to the public without a special license, because that could be really you know privacy invasion- but the night vision is definitely available.”

Government surveillance drones can reportedly monitor entire cities for long periods of time recording high resolution video.  Drones have proven their effectiveness on the battlefield, but over U.S. soil- what are the tradeoffs? In Alabama at least one police department, Gadsden, reportedly has two surveillance drones. Our request to see them was denied.

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle says the Rocket City is in the running to be one of six FAA test sites in the nation to study the interaction between unmanned aerial vehicles and commercial aircraft.
“We’ve worked with unmanned aerial vehicles for a long time being the Army’s center for unmanned aerial vehicles. We wanted to bring, bring that to the area. It means 1500 jobs according to an unmanned aerial vehicle study that was done recently and you know several million dollars worth of economic impact to the area,” said Battle.

State Senator Scott Beason is co-sponsoring a bill  to restrict the use of drones by law enforcement agencies in Alabama.

“These things have the ability to be abused at an incredible level. The technology is so amazing, what it can do, what it can- who it can spy on, what it can listen to, but that’s what I’m saying. There’s got to be a set of guidelines. There’s got to be a warrant out before an individual can be monitored basically,” said Sen. Scott Beason, (R) – Gardendale.

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