State lawmakers consider new drone regulations

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A measure now before Hawaii lawmakers would restrict the use of these unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, to law enforcement, and only if the search warrant calls for the technology.

Lawmakers want to prevent an unwarranted invasion of privacy and ensure “that they are not going where they shouldn’t go and that is into the privacy of people’s homes, for example,” said Sen. Clayton Hee, chairman of the Judiciary and Labor Committee.

Honolulu police says while it recognizes the potential for abuse, it would like to someday use drones for work, arguing that the technology would make quick work of investigations into major accidents.

“At critical and fatal crash scenes, we can put up (the drone) to get a real time aerial photograph of what happened and get an aerial perspective, a bird’s eye view, and we can open up the roads a little quicker,” said Maj. Kurt Kendro, commander of the Honolulu Police Department’s Traffic Division.

But the Nature Conservancy would also like to use drones because they’re cheaper than renting a $900 an hour helicopter to survey the 34,000 acres under its watch.

“We in the conservation community look at this platform as an opportune technology to monitor invasive species in remote areas,” said Mark Fox, director of external affairs for The Nature Conservancy.

Police say they can also use the technology for large-scale gatherings in the name of safety and security at such events as the NFL Pro Bowl and at meetings such as the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit.

“This gives us an aerial platform to see what’s going on inside the stadium, outside the stadium, to make it even more secure for attendees,” said Maj. Kendro.

Lawmakers are also aware of the use of drones for such commercial purposes as surf events and for research into real estate. They will look further into these uses as the measure works its way through the legislature.

Related Story: FAA: Video drones ok for personal use, illegal for business

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