According to Watch Dog, Florida statutes prohibit law enforcement from legally using drones in any capacity. At least two bills pre-filed for the 2019 legislative session seek to change that.
Rep. Clay Yarborough, R-Jacksonville, is sponsoring House Bill 75, which would allow law enforcement to use unmanned aircraft to assess traffic accidents, collect crime scene evidence, and assist in crowd control at large gatherings, including concerts and sporting events.
Yarborough, who has sponsored drone-related bills now for three successive sessions, says HB 75’s intent is to provide another “tool in the toolbox” for law enforcement.
The proposed bill’s language makes a point of noting it does not violate Florida Statute 934.50, the ‘Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act,’ and will restrict law enforcement from using drones for “pre-crime” mass surveillance or “spying” on suspects without a warrant.
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The Florida American Civil Liberties Union describes the proposal as an “end-run around judicial warrant requirements” and wants an amendment ensuring law enforcement can only use drones “pursuant to a probable cause warrant.”
Yarborough, for his part, has invited the ACLU and others concerned with privacy issues to committee meetings to ensure the bill addresses such objections.
Shortly after Yarborough submitted HB 75, one of more than 100 bills pre-filed in Tallahassee for the 2019 legislative session, Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-Tampa, posted Senate Bill 132, which would also allow law enforcement to use drones to monitor “large-scale events,” but prohibits them from being armed or “equipped to fire on crowds” with “tear gas canisters, stun gun technology, or any other dangerous or deadly weapon.”
Rouson’s bill calls for law enforcement being able to use unmanned vehicles for “evaluating crowd size, assessing public-safety vulnerabilities, determining staffing levels for public-safety personnel or identifying possible criminal activity.”
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Florida’s 2013 seminal drone statute prohibits law enforcement agencies from using unmanned aerial vehicles for surveillance or evidence gathering. It does allow a judge to issue a warrant allowing the use of drones if there is a “high risk of terrorist attack” or if officials fear someone is in imminent danger.
Yarborough’s proposal is actually a pared down version of HB 471, his 2018 bill that would have allowed law enforcement use of drones for crime scenes, traffic control and around jails and prisons to prevent contraband smuggling.
HB 471 passed the House and through several Senate committees, but never made it to the Senate floor for a vote. HB 75 excludes the prison surveillance component.
During the 2017 legislative session, Yarborough and Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa, co-sponsored HB 1027, the ‘Unmanned Aircraft Systems Act,’ essentially a pre-emption bill limiting the extent local governments can regulate drones.
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In adopting the bill, legislators claimed they were responding to the mushrooming growth of a confusing array of local ordinances. The bill bestows on state lawmakers the responsibility for regulating “personal delivery devices (PDDs) and unmanned aircraft systems (UVAs).”
The bill bans “political subdivisions from enacting or enforcing ordinances or regulations relating to the use of unmanned aircraft systems (or drones),” but allows local “ordinances regarding illegal acts arising from the use of unmanned aircraft systems if the ordinances are not specific to unmanned aircraft systems.”
PDD and UVA regulation are a growing realm of administrative governance and economic development with drones gaining in commercial application as they become less expensive.
According to Global Industry Analysts, Inc., an international financial analytics firm, the American drones-as-a-service market will generate more than $1.8 in revenues annually by 2020, up from about zero less than a decade ago.
Source: Watch Dog