Alaska legislators draft drone policy

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army.

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army.

With the Federal Aviation Administration considering Alaska as a drone test site, lawmakers are drafting a policy for their use in the state.

While the Legislative Task Force on Unmanned Aircraft Systems finds that the FAA’s regulations on privacy and safety cover most of their concerns, the draft report they released Monday lays out the potential for a few Alaska-specific rules. They recommend establishing a public review panel for drone use, and they want drones to be painted in high visibility color schemes.

The panel also reviewed scenarios where drone use could violate a person’s privacy, and concluded that most cases are covered by FAA regulations, the Alaska Constitution’s privacy clause, and existing state law. Trespassing, stalking, and spying are already illegal, whether or not a person is using a drone to do it.

Rep. Shelley Hughes, a Palmer Republican who chairs the task force, says there’s a balance between respecting people’s privacy rights and allowing drones to be used in beneficial ways, like search-and-rescue missions and wildlife research.

“We don’t want to single out the tool. We want to remember that if there’s a problem, it would be with the operator and not the tool. We want to be technology neutral.”

The task force also finds that existing rules prohibit the arming of drones and that they require law enforcement to get warrants or approved flight plans before using them in criminal cases.

A bill based on these recommendations is expected to be introduced during the upcoming legislative session.

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