Iowa Senate revamps drone bill

Revised version of House File 2289 would make intrusive use of a drone a criminal offense

Rod Boshart
Published: March 11 2014 | 5:21 pm - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 9:29 am in

DES MOINES – A Senate subcommittee Tuesday passed a revamped version of legislation designed to create parameters for the use of drones, otherwise known as unmanned aerial vehicles.

The revised version of House File 2289 would make the intrusive use of a drone to violate someone else’s privacy or private property rights would be a criminal offense punishable under the state’s trespassing law, said Sen. Rich Taylor, D-Mount Pleasant.

The Senate version also would bar state agencies or governmental entities from using an unmanned aircraft system before July 1, 2015, except in an emergency situation. An unmanned aerial vehicle could not be “weaponized,” but the provision did not apply to the Iowa National Guard or authorized federal research.

The proposed legislation, which could be taken up by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, calls for the Iowa Department of Public Safety, in consultation with the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, state and local agencies and other interested parties to develop model guidelines for use of unmanned aerial vehicles by law enforcement agencies and report back to the Legislature by the end of 2014.

Taylor said the Senate approach has the same goal as the bill that cleared the House on an 87-12 vote last month. “However, this has changed this from being a civil matter to being a criminal matter.”

“By putting this into the trespass law, a person won’t have to go fight their own battle in court, they won’t have to spend the money out of their own pocket if they think their neighbor is invading their privacy, the county attorney would actually take care of it and I think that’s a huge step,” he said.

Taylor said he has received “all kinds of emails” from people concerned about provisions of the House-passed bill, but he heard little opposition to the version that cleared the Senate panel Tuesday – raising his hopes the measure could make it to Gov. Terry Branstad’s desk this session.

“I’ve gotten very little opposition here so I think we’ve got a really good bill going forward,” he said. “I’m fairly sure it will pass through the Senate and we’ll send it back over to the House and see how they like it.”

Taylor said he believes the measure balances privacy rights with an evolving technology and allows people to “feel pretty secure in their homes and on their own property” via language that “protects them from their neighbors and overzealous law enforcement.”

“I really think it addresses everything he wanted to do and it does it without a lot of conflict,” he added.

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