Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Ted Poe (R-TX) have introduced legislation, H.R. 637, The Preserving American Privacy Act, to establish due process protections for Americans against government-operated unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in U.S. airspace. The bipartisan legislation would also forbid law enforcement and private UAS from being armed with firearms or explosives while operating within U.S. airspace.
"The expanded use of drones on U.S. soil raises serious Constitutional and civil liberties issues that Congress needs to address," Rep. Lofgren said. "These devices should be used in a safe, open, and responsible manner. This bill would ensure that drones follow strict guidelines to protect Americans' privacy while still realizing their practical applications for science, border security, public safety, and commercial development."
"As we enter this uncharted world of drone technology, Congress must be proactive and establish boundaries for drone use that safeguard the Constitutional rights of Americans," Rep. Poe said. "Individuals are rightfully concerned that these new eyes in the sky may threaten their privacy. It is the obligation of Congress to ensure that this does not happen. Just because Big Brother can look into someone's backyard doesn't mean it should. Technology may change, but the Constitution does not."
Specific provisions governing the use of UAS in the Preserving American Privacy Act include:
Government-operated UAS must obtain a warrant to collect information that can identify individuals in a private area;
Government-operated UAS must obtain a court order and provide public notice beforehand to collect information that can identify individuals in defined public areas;
The warrant and court order requirements are subject to exceptions for emergencies, border security, and consent;
Private UAS cannot capture visual images or sound recordings of individuals engaging in personal activities in certain circumstances in which the individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy;
State laws on the use of UAS in the airspace of the state are not preempted;
Private and law enforcement UAS cannot use or operate UAS equipped with firearms or explosives in U.S. airspace.
Click here for a section-by-section of the bill.