Drone Bill on Governor’s Desk

Legislation putting restrictions on law enforcement use of drones was revised by House-Senate conference committee on the final day of the 2013 legislative session, then approved by both chambers and sent to Gov. Bill Haslam.
Differing versions of the “Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act” (HB591) had been approved earlier by the House and Senate. The final version, approved late Friday, declares that drones can be used by law enforcement only when a search warrant has been obtained with four exceptions:
To “counter a high risk of a terrorist attack by a specific individual or organization” identified by the Department of Homeland Security.
When the law enforcement agency “possesses reasonable suspicion that, under particular circumstances, swift action is needed to prevent imminent danger to life.”
To “provide continuous aerial coverage when law enforcement is searching for a fugitive or escapee or is monitoring a hostage situation.”
To “provide more expansive aerial coverage when deployed for the purpose
of searching for a missing person.”
The House version earlier had contained a provision allowing use of drones “to protect life and property during crowd monitoring situations,” which proponents at the time said would cover crowds during University of Tennessee football games. That was deleted in the final version.
The bill’s sponsors were Rep. James “Micah” Van Huss, R-Jonesborough, and Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mount Juliet. They said the final product strikes a balance between allowing use of drones where needed for a legitimate purpose and avoiding governmental intrusion.
Tennessee currently has no statute dealing with drones, which are expected to become more widely used in the near future. The bill does not address use of drones by individuals or corporations, but the sponsors said they may propose legislation on that topic next year.

Leave a Reply