Idaho’s drone bill hovers in Senate committee

by Matt Standal KTVB

BOISE — Lawmakers continue to debate the future of unmanned aerial drones in Idaho. At least one senator says it may be as late as 2014 when a law is on the books regarding their use.

Senator Chuck Winder introduced bill s1134 before the Senate State Affairs Committee at 8:30 a.m. Monday.

The bill was tabled after prompting several questions on its legality.

The newest version of Idaho’s drone bill makes important changes to previous drafts, including giving the green light to law enforcement and government agencies who want to use aerial drones to perform surveillance and investigate suspected illegal activity.

A previous draft would have required law enforcement personnel to obtain a warrant to conduct surveillance on those suspected of a crime. See that bill here. That provision was called “Freedom from Unwanted Surveillance,” and is no longer included.

So why didn’t the newest drone bill fly out of committee and onto the Senate floor?

Winder says the bill still leaves important questions regarding the legality of forcing private companies and other groups to surrender evidence gathered by drones to law enforcement agencies who request it.

“The issue there was could law enforcement force someone to provide that information?” Winder said.

Another sticking point? Idaho’s drone bill would also make it legal for law enforcement to use the drones to search for marijuana grows on public and private property, including agricultural land. Winder says legal questions regarding that practice are also making lawmakers pause.

For those concerned about privacy, the bill does make it illegal for anyone to spy on their neighbors using aerial surveillance, but does not restrict commercial photography, and recreational devices without cameras like model airplanes.

Winder says the bill could be considered again later this week. He’s hopeful the drone bill will pass this year, but says it could be as late as 2014 before Idaho sees laws on the books regarding unmanned aircraft systems.