Delaware Public Media

GOP demands guidelines for the deployment of drones

Oct 24, 2015

Representative Steve Smyk delivers the GOP message this week, demanding for guidelines on the deployment of drones in the First State.

In Delaware, the use of drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) has grown quickly. Today, they’re tools that aid crime surveillance, agriculture and environmental surveys for natural disasters. However, Smyk noted that there are no policies in Delaware that dictate appropriate use of UAVs and says guidelines should be put into place to protect the privacy of citizens.

“I believe we should consider provisions respecting the civil liberties of our citizens," said Smyk, "making the use of this technology transparent and accountable to the public; and limiting the retention and use of data gathered by these devices.”

Smyk cited the National Conference of State Legislatures, saying that at least 20 states have enacted UAV laws. And police in some of those states cannot use them without a warrant.

The Delaware Aviation Advisory Council is currently in the progress of defining acceptable state policy for the governmental use of UAVs.

 

Full text of weekly GOP message:

Hi, I am State Rep. Steve Smyk speaking to you from Delaware Coastal Airport in Georgetown. 

The use of unmanned aerial vehicles, or U-A-Vs, has exploded over the last several years.  Drones equipped with cameras are available for less than $100. U-A-Vs have a huge potential to improve the operations of state and local governments.  Among other things, they can be used to inspect infrastructure, survey crops, and respond to disasters. The City of Wilmington has already employed the technology to conduct an aerial survey of a crime scene at a fraction of the cost of using a helicopter.  

In a case of technology outpacing policy, the State of Delaware currently has no guidelines for how and where U-A-Vs should be deployed and what safeguards should be in place to protect the privacy of our citizens. While the U.S. Supreme Court has considered a number of cases involving aerial surveillance by government agencies, those decisions do not clearly define what’s acceptable when using U-A-Vs. The data collected by this technology raises still more issues regarding its retention and appropriate uses, and under what conditions it could be accessed under the Freedom of Information Act.
 
Delaware is hardly alone in grappling with these issues. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 20 states have enacted U-A-V laws.  In some states, police cannot use them for surveillance without a warrant.  In Iowa, traffic enforcement cannot be conducted with U-A-Vs.
 
The Delaware Aviation Advisory Council is in the early stages of defining acceptable state policy for the governmental use of U-A-Vs.  As that process moves forward, I believe we should consider provisions respecting the civil liberties of our citizens; making the use of this technology transparent and accountable to the public; and limiting the retention and use of data gathered by these devices.