General Assembly
4:31 pm
Mon March 4, 2013

Virginia's Drone Moratorium

The federal government’s role in the use of drones inside the U.S. may be expanding, but state lawmakers have put the brakes on deploying them within Virginia’s borders.  Legislation that’s now under review by Governor McDonnell would place a moratorium on state and local use of drones.  The unmanned aircraft could not be deployed for two years—while parameters and safeguards are studied.

Concerns that drones could violate rights and invade privacy prompted an alliance between the state ACLU and lawmakers to put drone deployments on hold—at least temporarily.  

“I want to live in a world much more akin to that that was envisioned by our Founding Fathers than one that was envisioned by a gentleman named George Orwell. And I think we’re rapidly approaching a time in our history where this type of technology is so pervasive that we could very well lose what we think of as our privacy rights," said Delegate Todd Gilbert, who sponsored one of the bills.

He said the initial plan was not for a moratorium.  “We were trying to develop a framework by which we could allow law enforcement and regulatory agencies to use this technology in a way that was not an invasion of privacy.  And I think a lot of the law enforcement elements did not want anything but the unfettered use of this technology, and that gave us great pause.  So we decided to go with a moratorium.”

Exceptions are made for searches and rescues, Virginia Guard training and emergencies, Amber or Senior Alerts—or Blue Alerts when police officers are in danger.  But the drones cannot be weaponized.

Anne Marie Morgan reports from Richmond.