Lawmakers may restrict drone aircraft for privacy’s sake
Two bills in the Legislature could make Washington one of the few states restricting use of unmanned aircraft by limiting how state agencies can obtain drones and what they do with them.
Seattle Times Olympia bureau
OLYMPIA — Some lawmakers say drones are invasive and the state needs to act to preserve privacy.
Two bills working through the Legislature would make Washington state one of the few to restrict use of unmanned aircraft by limiting how state agencies obtain drones and how they can use them.
Rep. David Taylor, R-Moxee, is sponsoring House Bill 2789, which would require state agencies to receive approval from their governing bodies before procuring drones and to obtain warrants for most uses.
The warrantless collection of information is “a significant deviation from what I believe our Founding Fathers would have wanted,” Taylor said.
Passed last week in the House, the bill draws most of its policy points from another proposal, House Bill 1771, that stalled last year after Boeing said it could hurt plans by the company to manufacture and test drones for use by law-enforcement and other agencies.
Boeing lobbyists expressed concerns to several House lawmakers about a “perception that any limitation on the procurement of these devices would limit their ability to produce them,” said Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, chairman of the Public Safety Committee.
Last year’s proposal “basically said drones were an evil technology and should not be procured for any purpose,” said Rep. Jeff Morris, a Mount Vernon Democrat who chairs the House Technology and Economic Development Committee.
“The new bill recognizes the technology’s legitimate uses.”
Under the new measure, House Bill 2789, drones could be used for non-law-enforcement purposes, such as wildlife management, habitat preservation and environmental-damage assessment.
Boeing spokesman Mark Birtel said the company hasn’t taken an official position on this year’s bill.
The aerospace giant in 2008 purchased InSitu, a drone-manufacturing company based in Bingen, Klickitat County. InSitu spokeswoman Jill Vacek did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Senate Law and Justice Committee will hold a hearing for House Bill 2789 on Wednesday. Sen. Mike Padden, a Spokane Valley Republican who chairs the committee, says it has a decent chance of going forward.
The second measure, House Bill 2178, would ban the use of drones above private property without permission from owners.
Morris, prime sponsor of that bill, said it’s a move to tackle privacy issues involving invasive technologies.
Nine states have laws regulating drone use. Wisconsin lawmakers are considering a bill that would make it a crime to use a drone with audio or video recording in areas where people have a reasonable expectation of privacy.
This story includes material from The Seattle Times archives.
Ashley Stewart: 360-236-8266 or firstname.lastname@example.org.