State Senate approves bill on drones

State Senate approves bill on drones

SPRINGFIELD — The first piece of legislation regulating the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, for surveillance has passed the Illinois Senate.

The bill (SB 1587) only restricts law enforcement's use of drones, but the bill's sponsor, Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Skokie, said there is interest in further limitations.

"So when I was going around talking to people about this bill, they kept asking me, 'What about this? What about this? What about this?'" Biss said in an interview. "So we have drafted a resolution to set up a study committee to make further recommendations on issues like what about corporations using drones, should a Chinese corporation be able to have a drone that flies over Caterpillar to steal trade secrets, what about a municipality with a drone that flies over backyards to find code violations?

"I didn't think I would be able to study all these issues on my own so we set up a resolution to have a task force and they'll come back by January 1, 2014, with recommendations and if they make sense I'll run a much bigger bill next year."

He said the task force would include two senators along with representatives of the bar association, law enforcement, civil liberties groups and others.

The resolution has not yet passed the Senate.

"But I don't think that will be a problem, based on what I've heard from members," Biss said.

SB 1587 was approved 52-1 on Thursday. It passed with little debate.

All senators from East Central Illinois supported the measure.

In most cases, law enforcement agencies would have to obtain a search warrant before using a drone, according to the bill. But among the exemptions are for searching for lost and missing persons, crime scene and traffic crash scene photography, and countering suspected acts of terrorism.

The legislation now moves to the Illinois House.

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