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Published on Friday, October 17, 2014

Governor Inslee’s Drone Task Force Moves Forward

On April 4, 2014, Governor Jay Inslee vetoed EHB 2789 that related to technology-enhanced government surveillance (aka the “Drone” bill). In his veto letter, the Governor expressed concerns around the use of new technology, and the need to establish guidelines and standards for the use, collection, disclosure, and retention of information obtained with this technology.

As a result, Governor Inslee created the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Task Force to further examine the issues, and with a goal of introducing a fully-vetted bill during the 2015 legislative session. Since that time, the UAS Task Force met on three occasions, the most recent occurring Monday, October 13.

Most of the discussion during the October 13 meeting revolved around the various laws other states have adopted regarding UAS, and the myriad of policy options available for addressing law enforcement use. A good resource for understanding the different laws and policies adopted by states across the nation can be found through the National Council of State Legislatures (NCSL). According to the NCSL, to date, 20 states have enacted laws addressing UAS. Common issues addressed in legislation include definitions of UAS, how they can be used by law enforcement or other agencies, and how the general public can use them.

Specifically, the Task Force spent a great deal of time reviewing how detailed potential Washington state UAS legislation should be. Viewpoints differed on whether current constitutional protections and legal precedent require law enforcement to obtain a warrant before conducting or using data obtained from drone surveillance. Discussion centered around what, if any, assumptions of privacy citizens can expect with this emerging technology. This lead to questions around how the plain view and open view doctrines would apply to UAS observation and surveillance. No conclusions were reached during the discussion.

The Task Force also heard from Alex Pietsch with the Office of Economic Development and Competitiveness. Pietsch spoke about UAS development in Washington, and how this development is supporting the manufacturing, development, and research sectors of our economy. Pietsch cautioned the Task Force not to be too prescriptive with legislation, as UAS technology is changing rapidly and overly specific policies may not be able to anticipate the future of UAS.

The final meeting of the UAS Task Force is scheduled for November 10, 2014. The Task Force plans to distribute draft legislation one week in advance of the meeting, with an expectation that the final meeting would be spent reviewing the draft. AWC will continue to monitor the Task Force, and work with stakeholders on UAS policy development as we approach the 2015 legislative session.

Watch the entire October 13 Task Force meeting here: Unmanned Aircraft Systems Task Force on TVW

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