Bills to ban drones and small hobby helicopters with cameras are proliferating in local, state and national legislatures. The US House Wednesday introduced a bill that, “would require law enforcement to get a search warrant or some other kind of judicial approval for surveillance before using drones to investigate criminal wrongdoing.” It would, however, allow drone use for fire and rescue missions. The legislation would also ban law enforcement from arming the surveillance drones.
The bill was introduced on February 13 by Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat from California, and Ted Poe, a Republican from Texas. The introduction was praised by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Legislation passed by Congress last year requires the FAA to establish six drone test ranges in the United States, but privacy concerns have delayed the opening of the ranges.
PDXDrones, a strong voice for Portland’s Drone Community, reports two Oregon legislators last week introduced two separate ”Drone” bills that effectively kill Drone use statewide.
The more insidious bill is Senate Bill 71 (pdf), which would classify a Drone as any unmanned vehicle that can capture images from the air. Should the bill become law as drafted, possession of any camera equipped drone would be a Class B Misdemeanor.
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The bill seems to disregard existing businesses in Oregon that already employ people to build drones, such as Insitu, located in Hood River. Insitu’s new Integrator can carry a suite of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance gear and joins their ScanEagle.
PDXDrones was founded in August 2012 by Scott Edwards who believes Portland is on its way to become a Drone hub with large companies employing many high-tech employees including Insitu, Urban Robotics, Aerosight Innovations, XProHeli, FLIR and many other electronics firms and software developers.
Seattle Mayor McGinn announced last week that Seattle Police‘s Homeland Security-funded drone program has been scrapped. The ACLU of Washington still hopes to see legislation placing restrictions on the acquisition and use of drones by law enforcement statewide.
The Seattle Police surveillance cameras are also getting flack from the ACLU. The $5 million Homeland Security grant that is funding a “wireless mesh”, but officials told the West Seattle Blog… they wouldn’t be activated without a “thorough public vetting”.
Seattle Fire recently partnered with In Motion Technology to create a centrally controlled mobile wireless networking system for incident responses, pre-hospital emergency patient care and day-to-day operations.
In Motion’s Cognitive Wireless System connects all devices – wired or wireless – with seamless connectivity from one network to the next.
Seattle Police purchased two 3.5-pound Draganflyer X6 drones (above) with money from a regional Homeland Security grant. One of the helicopters was expected to be used by the King County Sheriff’s Office. Now, apparently, the drones are headed back to the supplier.
Earlier this month, Charlottesville, Va., ordered a two-year moratorium on the citywide use of unmanned aircraft. It is the first city in the nation to do so, supporters say.
Gorgon Stare looks at a moderate-sized city with a wide-area electro-optical and infrared sensor system using a General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper. It involves a Mercury processor, ITT Exelis sensors and IR cameras, and an L-3 Communications system. Exelis MobileVue displays real-time aircraft surveillance data on a portable device. Sierra Nevada is the prime contractor on the Gorgon Stare program. Gorgon Stare is being developed and tested on the MQ-9 Reaper at Eglin Air Force Base, FL.
Parrot AR.Drones ($300) can be controlled by an iPhone or Android device. Georgia Robotics and InTelligent Systems (Grits) Lab at Georgia Tech researches Networked Robotics. The University of Pennsylvania’s GRASP Lab uses Quadcopter vehicles developed by KMel Robotics. Their Scalable sWarms of Autonomous Robots and Mobile Sensors (swarms.org), fly in air-born coordinated swarms that are dynamically reconfigurable.
DIY Drones include airplanes, helicopters, quadcopters and blimps. Most of them are under five pounds, and cost under $1,000.
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