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Approach to UAS Legislation Announced

Recommendations Balance Privacy and Technology

August 13, 2013, Washington, D.C. – During a press conference in Washington, D.C. today, Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell released a set of recommendations for state policymakers to consider as they craft legislation regarding the use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) in their states.

Treadwell chairs the Aerospace States Association (ASA), the lead organization in developing the recommendations, and fielded questions from reporters gathered for the annual convention of the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI).

“I believe these recommendations strike a fine balance between protecting individual privacy rights as guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment, and taking advantage of the significant economic and humanitarian benefits of UAS technology – from Arctic observation, to search and rescue, to precision agriculture,” Treadwell told reporters.

Recommendations, such as suggesting that states consider prohibiting commercial UAS and model aircraft flights from tracking specific, identifiable individuals without their consent, are key to this balance. The recommendations aim to achieve the following outcomes:

  1. States will adopt stricter privacy restrictions than currently required by federal law due to the unique characteristics of UAS;
  2. States will not allow UASs to be used to track any individual or their property without a warrant;
  3. States will not allow UASs to be used as a weapon;
  4. States will put into place operating conditions for retention and use of data collected by UAS; and
  5. States will create thousands of new jobs, and improve health, safety, and environmental quality in their state.

Last year Congress mandated that the Federal Aviation Administration create a plan to integrate UAS into the national airspace, but progress has been delayed due, in part, to concerns over privacy rights. 

“During a time when Americans are especially distrusting of their government’s regard for individual privacy, our goal has been to respect those concerns,” Treadwell said. “If you don’t stand up for privacy, there’s no industry.”

Legislation regarding UAS integration has been adopted in four states, and is pending in 35 others.

ASA, the National Conference of State Legislatures and the Council of State Governments worked in collaboration to develop this set of recommendations based on input from stakeholders including the Airborne Law Enforcement Association, the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

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