One of the first bills the
South Carolina House will deal with when the session starts in January is
whether to put new restrictions on unmanned aircraft, or drones. A bill already
on the first day's calendar would limit how police could use drones. Click to read the bill.
Rep. Dan Hamilton, R-Taylors, the main sponsor of the bill, says, "Drones can be used for mass surveillance from a law enforcement or state agency that could go around and collect information without regard to a purpose." His bill would require police to get a search warrant in order to use a drone in certain situations.
The Richland County Sheriff's Department already has an unmanned aircraft, a small remote-controlled helicopter with a camera mounted in front. Deputy Marcus Kim flies it and says, "Basically, we only use this for emergency situations where we need to utilize a tool to keep the deputies on the roads safe, and that's one of the tools that we use. We don't use this to fly around, go peek through windows, peek through backyards."
The bill would also prohibit an agency from equipping a drone with any kind of weapon. Rep. Hamilton says, "They're very easy to weaponize. And we certainly would hope that would not even be a consideration domestically, but it'd be very easy to do."
He says he expects the bill to pass because it's a non-partisan issue and he's been getting support from Republicans and Democrats. He says senators he's spoken to about the bill have also been supportive.
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