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September 27, 2013

Drone use prompts privacy concerns

OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma can and should place reasonable privacy restrictions on the use of unmanned aerial vehicles without jeopardizing the state’s growing presence in the aerospace industry, a state legislator said Thursday during a hearing on his plan to restrict the use of drones.

Rep. Paul Wesselhoft, R-Moore, had an interim legislative study on the use of drones before the House Energy and Aerospace Committee.

Wesselhoft wrote a bill last session to restrict the use of drones by law enforcement for surveillance on citizens without a warrant or placing weapons on the vehicles, but he agreed to stall the measure at the request of Gov. Mary Fallin, who was concerned it could affect the state’s burgeoning aerospace industry.

Wesselhoft said his bill, which also places limits on retaining data obtained from unmanned vehicles, shouldn’t be seen as a hindrance to the industry.

“We’ve heard comments from industry spokespeople that would really rather us not do anything,” Wesselhoft said at the conclusion of the hearing. “We know that’s a natural tendency. Most industries don’t want to be inhibited in any way whatsoever, but I might remind you that as legislators we are charged with the responsibility of striking a balance between technology and industry and economic development and also protecting people’s privacy rights. I’m hoping this bill will do that.”

Wesselhoft said he specifically pulled the bill because of Oklahoma’s application with the Federal Aviation Administration to become one of six test ranges that will be used to integrate unmanned aerial systems into the national airspace.

Oklahoma is one of more than two dozen states that have applied to become one of the sites, and Wesselhoft said a decision is expected before the start of the 2014 legislative session in February.

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