By Tom Precious
ALBANY – A Brooklyn Democratic assemblyman is joining the expanding list of legislators around the country seeking to limit the use of drone aircraft by state and local government agencies and private companies.
Citing privacy concerns, Assemblyman Nick Perry’s legislation, introduced Tuesday, would set limits on drones used by law enforcement and other agencies in the collection and storing of evidence, including audio and video recordings, involving criminal and regulatory investigations unless specifically okayed by a search warrant.
The bill memo accompanying the legislation says the purpose is “to protect New York state residents from unwarranted and unauthorized use of drones or other unmanned aircrafts to conduct surveillance upon them inside their homes or place of worship or within the closed confines of their property or other locations where a person would have an expectation of privacy.’’
The bill singles out an exemption: use of drones by law enforcement if officials have a “reasonable suspicion that swift action is necessary to prevent imminent danger to life.’’ Otherwise, a search warrant specifically authorizing a drone craft must be first obtained by police, the bill states.
In the bill memo, Perry expressed a worry by privacy advocates over the rapidly growing sales of drone aircraft, and the potential for abuse by law enforcement and private companies. He said a drone can be purchased, with a camera, for as little as $300, and that localities across the country are considering drone aircraft as a replacement to helicopters.
The bill permits drones under certain circumstances, including by police engaged in patrols along the Canadian border to prevent illegal entry of people or drugs and other substances, and to counter a "high risk of a terrorist attack by a specific individual or organization based on credible intelligence determined by the commissioner of homeland security and emergency services.'' Drones could also be used by individuals for "lawful purposes, including recreational or hobby purposes.''
The bill does not yet list a Senate sponsor.
The National Conference of State Legislatures has reported more than 30 states are considering various laws restricting the use of drone aircraft.