Drone Rules Make Unusual Allies of ACLU, Conservative Lawmaker

Metro Police have to of these Draganflyer-X6 models, which are more akin to remote control helicopters than military drones that can be armed with missiles. Image courtesy Draganflyer

Metro Police have two of these Draganflyer-X6 models, which are more akin to remote control helicopters than military drones that can be armed with missiles. Image courtesy Draganflyer

State lawmakers want police to be able to use drones, but only in ways they specifically authorize. Some of the first proposed rules governing unmanned aircraft in Tennessee are cruising through the legislature.

The law proposed by Sen. Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet) defines what a drone is. And it lists what police can do with one, like looking for a fugitive or stopping a terrorist attack. The video that is collected has to be promptly deleted unless it was obtained legally.

“We want to make sure that the privacy of Tennesseans is protected, that they can’t collect evidence with a drone without a search warrant, just like the law works now,” Beavers says.

The drone regulations are modeled after a Florida law and were amended with input from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, according to a TBI spokesperson.

Beavers often sponsors divisive and highly-partisan legislation, but she’s been praised by some Democrats for proposing sensible rules for police drones. So far, the committee votes have been unanimous.

A handful of law enforcement agencies in the state have already used drones.

Metro Police own two unmanned aerial vehicles which were purchased at a cost of $22,000 a piece. But an MNPD spokesperson says the UAVs haven’t been used and won’t be until the department develops internal policies.

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