House, Senate Approve Drone Surveillance Bill

The House and Senate both unanimously approved Thursday a bill that sets rules Tennessee law enforcement agencies’ use of unmanned aerial surveillance aircraft, better known as drones.
As approved by the Senate, the bill (SB796) says that drones can only be used to search for a fugitive or a missing person, in monitoring a hostage situation or when a judge issues a search warrant authorizing them. Any information gathered otherwise by a drone cannot be used in court and must be destroyed within 24 hours, the bill says.
The House added an amendment saying they can also be used “to protect life and property during crowd monitoring situations.” In debate, crowds and traffic during University of Tennessee football games was cited as an example of where drone monitoring might be desirable.
The Senate will have to approve the House amendment before the bill goes to the governor for his signature.
Sponsors of the bill – Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mount Juliet, and Rep. James “Micah” Van Huss, R-Jonesborough – said there is no law on the books in Tennessee dealing with drone surveillance, but one is needed with projections that thousands will be deployed in the years ahead.
Van Huss said he worked with drones while serving with the Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I know that drones are a very effective tool in fighting against the bad guys and I do not want them to be a very effective tool in infringing on the personal liberties of my constituents and Tennessee citizens,” he said.

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