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Iowa lawmakers consider drone use regulations

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014 11:02 a.m. CDT

DES MOINES (AP) — Law enforcement officials and hobbyists told lawmakers Monday that proposed legislation restricting the use of drones shouldn’t be so stringent that it unduly limits the use of the unmanned aircraft.

Members of a Senate judiciary subcommittee discussed two bills regarding drone use, a topic also being considered in the House.

One would allow law enforcement agencies to operate or obtain information from drones only under certain circumstances, such as life-threatening emergencies or with a search warrant.

The second bill outlines permit requirements for anyone using drones in the public sphere and restricts where they can be used.

Roxann Ryan, an attorney for the Iowa Department of Public Safety, said the department’s main concern is that lawmakers will begin to impose limitations already regulated at the national level.

“We cannot authorize anything at the state level that is not authorized at the federal level,” she said.

Susan Cameron, a lobbyist with the State Sheriffs’ and Deputies’ Association, said her concerns stem from the limitations that would be placed on law enforcement agencies.

Cameron said she doesn’t know of any Iowa agency that now uses drones, but there has been interest. Strict regulations could hinder an agency’s ability to effectively use them in the future, she said.

“We want to be careful as we draft this that it’s not too restrictive,” Cameron said.

Several people who fly small aircraft, controlled from the ground, as a hobby also told lawmakers they worry the legislation would needlessly limit their pastime. They urged lawmakers to separate recreational use from restrictions imposed on others.

Sen. Rich Taylor, D-Mount Pleasant, who chairs the subcommittee, said he plans to continue the discussion and eventually combine the two bills before bringing the matter to the full committee.

“I think what the goal of this committee is going to be is to incorporate both bills together and come up with one bill that’s probably not going to be perfect, but that will cover most of the concerns that you heard in the room today,” he said

Taylor said he wants to pass legislation soon so people who buy drones won’t be surprised by restrictions limiting use of the devises.

“People need to know if we’re going to have a law before they waste their hard-earned money,” Taylor said. “It’s not fair to them if we sit back and wait and try to take control too late.”

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