Local Legislators Support Drone Bill - The Missourian: County

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Local Legislators Support Drone Bill

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Posted: Saturday, April 6, 2013 8:45 pm

Local state representatives have supported a bill that would put restrictions on the use of drone surveillance by government agencies, news organizations and private citizens.

State Rep. Paul Curtman, R-Pacific, added the language that would prohibit the use of unmanned aircrafts by news organizations to conduct surveillance.

Franklin County’s other state representatives — Dave Hinson, R-St. Clair and Dave Hinson, R-Sullivan — also supported the bill.

It passed the House Thursday, but Curtman said he is unsure if it will survive the Senate.

Some journalism schools are studying the concept of using drones to gather in formation for news stories, Curtman said.

Indeed, the University of Missouri School of Journalism has a course in drone journalism. The school’s website states, “The aim of the drone journalism course is to explore the possibilities of using small, unmanned aerial vehicles to gather video and photos that support stories on the science, environmental and agricultural beats.”

Curtman also said the federal government is taking steps to purchase drones for domestic use, and he said he thinks citizens are concerned about how the technology may be used.

There does not seem to be as much oversight with the drone technology compared to other methods of government surveillance, Curtman added.

For instance, he has heard of the Environmental Protection Agency using drones to see if farmers are committing federal violations.

He claims a drone circled a family’s barn in Lebanon, Mo., to keep watch over a livestock operation.

Restricting drone use is a due process issue, Curtman said, noting that if the government wants to conduct drone surveillance a warrant should be required when there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.

The language about journalists that Curtman added to the bill is not intended to infringe on journalists’ rights to get stories, he said.

The bill only maintains protections that people already have, Curtman said. Currently, reporters don’t have access to private property unless granted permission, he said.

Journalists should not be allowed to use drones to look into the windows of a private residence, he said.

Curtman said next year he may work on a bill to tighten the definition of what is considered surveillance so recreational photography is not confused with spying.

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