Branstad willing to consider drone restrictions in Iowa

Unmanned aircraft have legitimate law enforcement uses, but other uses should be monitored

Rod Boshart
Published: January 31 2014 | 12:23 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 2:57 am in

Gov. Terry Branstad said Friday he would be willing to consider legislation that established state regulations for the use of unmanned aerial surveillance drones in Iowa.

Bills have been introduced in both chambers of the Iowa Legislature this session that seek to protect members of the public and their right to privacy as drone technology advances and become more accessible for private and public uses.

Speaking to reporters after appearing on Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” show, Branstad said he would be willing to consider placing restrictions on the use of drones in Iowa.

The five-term GOP governor said the devices could be effective tools for law enforcement in some situations, but such uses would have to be balanced with citizens’ constitutional rights and concern for potentially unintended consequences so policymakers “need to carefully think this through.”

“We certainly don’t want government spying on people with drones,” Branstad said. “On the other hand, there can be legitimate private uses for drones, so I think we’ve got to be very careful and very thoughtful on the way this is dealt with.”

Currently, Iowa does not have laws concerning drone use. In 2013, 13 states enacted drone-related legislation, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Members of a House public safety subcommittee began discussions this week on legislation that would allow law enforcement agencies and state officials to use drones but only under certain circumstances, including life-threatening emergencies. In many cases, agencies would have to obtain warrants before using the unmanned aerial vehicles.

The proposed bill also would prohibit drones equipped with weapons or capabilities of emitting sounds and would provide penalties if the law isn't followed.

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