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Oregon Legislature Considering Drone Regulation

An aerial drone used by the USGS to monitor erosion in remote areas.

An aerial drone used by the USGS to monitor erosion in remote areas.

U.S. Geological Survey

The Oregon Legislature is looking at proposals to regulate the use of drones in the state. OPB’s Think Out Loud travelled to Salem Thursday, to speak with those working on legislation about the use of the unmanned aircraft.

Kevin Campbell is the Executive Director of the Oregon Association of the Chiefs of Police. Think Out Loud host Dave Miller asked him how drones might be used.

CAMPBELL: You can see in areas around the U.S. where they’re beginning to be used, so we’re starting to get stories of how the application of the use of an unmanned aerial system can really benefit law enforcement.

MILLER: What stories are you seeing that your chiefs of police are salivating over?

CAMPBELL: Well I think it has less to do with surveillance, but it has a lot to do with search and rescue, missing persons, where it’s expensive to get a helicopter up in the air but you get one of these small unmanned aerial systems up pretty quickly and cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time. Also, high risk situations where officers and the public could be at risk, a barricaded subject, active shooting, any of those situations where being able to assess the situation to get situational awareness is very important and beneficial to law enforcement.

Miller also spoke with state Representative John Huffman, a Republican from The Dalles. He’s sponsored legislation to regulate drone use by law enforcement. Huffman says drone development offers economic opportunities in Oregon.

HUFFMAN: So from an economic development jobs perspective you know I’m very supportive of the drone industry, so I try to make it clear to everybody up front that I’m not really trying to restrict the use of drones but just how they’re used a little bit but trying to make sure that people’s individual rights and  privacy aren’t being trampled.

MILLER: What are your specific concerns about the use of drones or potential future use of drones in Oregon?

HUFFMAN: Well, maybe this is a little out there, maybe we’re a couple years away from it, but I can see a small craft  being used by a neighbor, maybe law enforcement, hovering outside a window. So, my concern is where does the privacy begin and end these days? Do we need to have the conversation, has it changed, when it comes to law enforcement and the doctrine of plain view that we’ve used for years? If you’ve got a patrolman in a patrol car going down the road , with the naked eye they can see, survey a situation, that’s plain view, with enhanced technology that can be adapted to drones or helicopters or whatever, has that conversation changed?

You can listen to the full conversation on the Think Out Loud site

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