RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia lawmakers on Tuesday approved a two-year moratorium on the use of drones by police and government agencies.
The House of Delegates voted 83-16 to pass the bill. The Senate voted 36-2 to approve a similar measure.
Proponents of the legislation say the unfettered use of the small, unmanned aircraft could infringe on Virginians’ privacy rights. A diverse coalition of organizations including the ACLU, the Tea Party Federation and agriculture groups supported the bills, while several law enforcement organizations opposed them.
“Our founders had no conception of things that would fly over them at night and peer into their backyards and send signals back to a home base,” said Sen. A. Donald McEachin, D-Henrico and sponsor of the Senate bill.
Legislators initially proposed regulating the use of drones, including requiring police to get a warrant before deploying the aircraft for surveillance purposes, but decided on the moratorium to allow more time to study the issue.
In an attempt to address police concerns, legislators carved out exceptions for the use of drones in emergencies, or to search for missing children or seniors.
The General Assembly action came a day after the Charlottesville City Council passed a resolution imposing a two-year moratorium on the use of drones within city limits and urging the General Assembly to pass regulations. The Rutherford Institute, a civil liberties group behind the city’s effort, said Charlottesville is the first city in the country to limit the use of drones by police.
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