Senate bill restricts drone use

Senate bill restricts drone use
Published: Feb. 17, 2014 at 10:55 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Unmanned aircraft systems, commonly called drones, are becoming an increasingly common site in Hawaii skies. But if Senate Bill 2608 becomes law many drones will be grounded.

"This bill is intended to provide a tool for law enforcement and for data gathering, primarily for law enforcement. It's not intended to be a drone in every garage," Sen. Clayton Hee said.

Hee introduced the measure that restricts drone use primarily to law enforcement. It is being challenged by those who believe the legislation is too restrictive.

"Our biggest concern is it appears to prohibit all use of unmanned aerial aircraft or unmanned aerial vehicles with the exception of police use with a warrant," said Mark Fox, The Nature Conservancy's director of external affairs.

He said the Conservancy could use drones to track invasive plants that attack forests.  Drone retailer Travis Ryan said the bill would prohibit young people from flying drones.

"They can pick up a drone, fly it on the their iPhone. Technically, that is a drone. It says it right on the box. Does this bill basically eliminate kids from playing with their toys in their backyard?" he said.

Hee introduced the measure. He said limiting the use of drones initially to law enforcement doesn't mean other applications would be forbidden forever.

"The intent is to go slow. To do it properly. Then to have other stake holders say, 'Hey, we can use this kind of technology,'" he said.

There's also the matter of protecting people's privacy from drones.

"The last thing that we want to do is invade on anyone's privacy. But we want to be able to make judicious and lawful use of them for the technology that they are," Fox said.

"The idea is all of the stake holders should weigh in and help make the bill better," Hee said.

The drone bill will be heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday at 10 a.m. in Room 016 at the State Capitol.

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