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Washington set to regulate drone surveillance use by government agencies

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by Taylor Soper

Washington state is on the verge of passing a bill that will regulate drone surveillance use for state and local agencies.

The Senate passed House Bill 2789 with an overwhelming 46-1 vote and if signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee — amendments were approved by the House Tuesday afternoon, 77-21 — the bill would require agencies to get approval from state government before using drones for surveillance in special circumstances like emergencies or environmental monitoring.

HB 2789 will also require agencies that use drones to compile annual, public reports that detail how exactly they used the unmanned vehicles and why they were beneficial.

Essentially, the bill does not outlaw drones, but puts in place a system to regulate the use of them. Other states like IowaUtah and Oregon have similar bills. Washington’s full bill can be seen here.

Drones, or “unmanned aerial vehicles,” have received quite a bit of attention the last few months, especially in the wake of the stated desire of the Seattle Police Department to use them, in addition to Amazon’s futuristic vision of “delivery drones.” Just last week,reports surfaced that Facebook was interested in buying a solar-powered drone maker.

The FAA is testing the legitimacy of drone use in the U.S., but last week, the National Transportation Safety Board ruled that drone-flying is legal in the U.S. for now. The FAA has since appealed that decision.

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